Los Angeles, CA– Today Jesse Ceniceros, president of Voters Injured at Work (VIAW) announced plans to mobilize injured workers and voters to oppose the current workers’ compensation package and called on legislators to push for a public debate. The proposed workers’ compensation package seeks to drastically reduce the healthcare options and legal recourse available to persons injured on the job in California.
The organization has been visiting legislators and mobilizing injured workers in clinics across Southern California, generating hundreds of calls to members of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. Now, the organization is mobilizing voters to raise awareness about the impact of the proposed cuts on the rights to and access to medical care for injured workers.
Yesterday VIAW launched a massive effort to contact nearly one million registered voters in the districts of Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee members, to encourage voters to contact legislators and demand workers’ compensation reform that protects workers not big business and insurance companies. VIAW’s message was received by nearly 300,000 registered voters. As a result Senate offices were flooded with calls from voters all day yesterday. “There has been little to no opportunity for injured workers in California to have a voice in these negotiations and that’s not politics, it’s just wrong,” said Ceniceros.
“We are calling on our legislators to force proponents of this package to have a public debate! Under the current deal they are basically trying to help balance the state budget on the backs of injured workers. That’s no way to treat people who have helped keep this state afloat with the sweat of their brow and their taxes,” added Ceniceros.
Under Governor Schwarzenegger, injured workers saw vicious cuts of 61% to permanent disability payments. This new proposal is a bad deal for injured workers as it now seeks to also limit healthcare options and long-term compensation. The proposal would do the following:
● This workers compensation package grants injured workers an illusory $720 million increase in permanent disability benefits while actually cutting benefits. It will reduce benefits for most injured workers in greater amounts than SB 899 did in 2004.
● It mandates the establishment of the Medicare Fee Schedule for workers’ compensation treatment and this will reduce injured workers’ access to specialty medical care, make it more difficult for injured workers to prove the cause and extent of their disabilities and increase employers’ insurance premiums.
● It permits employers to delay payments of permanent disability benefits and creates roadblocks that will discourage injured workers from returning to work.
● The proposed Independent Medical Review (IMR) system will further delay injured workers’ treatment, deny workers due process of law and will be very costly for employers. (See attachment for additional analysis.)
Like most members of the public, VIAW learned of the deal and its sweeping cutbacks this week. The proposed package has allowed for very little public input. The organization was looking forward to providing comment during the scheduled Senate Labor and Industrial
Relations Committee on Wednesday August 15, 2012. However, the hearing was postponed.
We stand ready to work with our legislators in protecting injured workers through fair and just reform. We look forward to a public discussion.
VIAW plans to continue to reach out to voters throughout this election cycle. “The postponement of the hearing does not mean that this package is dead. We are looking ahead and want to be sure that voters and especially injured workers are aware and have a say in the matter. We are calling on the members of this committee and legislators to let injured workers have a voice,” concluded Ceniceros.
VotersInjuredAtWork.org is an organization of injured workers and their families established for the purpose of protecting and enforcing California’s constitutional guarantee of a fair and adequate system of compensating workers and their dependents for injury or disability from a work injury. Voters Injured at Work.org provides a strong voice in Sacramento to help enact legislation that will rebalance the California workers’ compensation system that has been “fixed” at the expense of injured workers. Voters Injured at Work.org seeks to do all of the following:
● Maintain access to appropriate medical care with a physician of an injured workers’ choice.
● Improve benefit levels.
● Provide assistance in returning to gainful employment.
● Increase enforcement of existing laws that protect workers.
● Improve benefit delivery and system performance.
Voters Injured At Work
Opposition to Senate Bill 863 (Lieu)
Senate Bill 863 grants injured workers an illusory $720 million increase in permanent disability benefits while actually cutting benefits. SB 863 will reduce benefits for most injured workers in greater amounts than SB 899 did in 2004. SB 863 must be defeated because:
● The overturning of the Ogilvie decision and the mandate not to consider an injured worker’s age and diminished future earning capacity will dramatically reduce permanent disability ratings.
● The prohibition against considering psychiatric disorders resulting from physical injuries will dramatically reduce permanent disability ratings.
● The proposed Independent Medical Review (IMR) system will further delay injured workers’ treatment, deny workers due process of law and will be very costly for employers.
● It erects reporting and billing roadblocks that will discourage physicians from treating injured workers.
● It fails to address the many documented abuses in the current Medical Provider Network (MPN) law. In fact, it makes MPNs even more anti-injured worker.
● It permits employers to delay payments of permanent disability benefits and discourages return-to-work.
● It mandates an outrageous lien filing fee that will encourage insurance companies to short-pay physicians and it will increase lien litigation.
● It mandates the establishment of the Medicare Fee Schedule for workers’ compensation treatment and this will reduce injured workers’ access to specialty medical care, make it more difficult for injured workers’ to prove the cause and extent of their disabilities, it will destabilize most medical provider networks, and increase employers’ insurance premiums.
● It will disqualify many chiropractors from serving as Qualified Medical Evaluators (QMEs)
● It mandates a copy service fee schedule that will impair the ability of injured workers to obtain necessary evidence to prove their workers’ comp cases.
● It mandates an interpreter fee schedule that will impair the ability of injured workers to communicate with their treating physicians and evaluators.
● It limits home care services for injured workers.
● The bill is designed to benefit large self-insured employers of low-income workers, such as Grimmway Farms and Safeway.