Workers Comp Zone


Standard and Poors has placed California’s credit rating on a watch list. Vendors may have to be paid with IOUs. The knives are out in Sacramento. Who and what get axed, and what remains? A union throws a Hail Mary pass, running ads for higher taxes.

Every group demands space in the lifeboat as the ship sinks.

It’s in this environment that there is still some talk of “blowing up boxes”.

Should the Workers Compensation Appeals Board be merged with the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the OSHA Appeals Board?
It’s been an idea mentioned in the past by the Governor as a cost saver.

A hearing on this is scheduled on Thursday at the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations committee.

It’s a bad idea for multiple reasons.

The comp system is “user funded”. Users should be getting something for their money. Users have already been shafted by the mediocre transition to EAMS, which is a disappointment to most all stakeholders. Furloughs of board personnel are another affront to the user funded scheme.

What “stakeholders” want and need is a capable and experienced board that has deep, targeted expertise. The current WCAB is comprised
principally of lawyers who have decades of experience in the workers comp field. They are supported by a staff in San Francisco that focuses entirely on comp.

A board that ruled over OSHA and UI matters might not have such focus.
There would be a temptation to have more “labor” or “management”
representatives deciding cases. Depending on who is governor, this could result in some pretty unfair and crazy stuff.

That would be unfortunate at a time when California workers’ comp law has become ever more complicated. With a slew of new regulations, old vs. new schedule issues, multiple injury issues a la Benson, more thorny apportionment and overlap issues, and many unresolved issues about rating impairment, comp cases have become ever more tangled.

Think 3-D rather than two dimensional.

State General Fund budget savings need to come from somewhere. Many programs will not make it into the lifeboat. It’s sad to see well meaning unionists and social service recipients demonstrating, demanding that their salaries and programs not be cut. There’s a certain amount of naivete and denial at work. Many of those testifying and demonstrating don’t have the slightest idea how the state’s finances work.

There’s no money, and revenues will not be raised in the near term.

But this merger of various appeals boards would be a real stinker. The savings would not be that substantial. All comp stakeholders have something to lose.

I’ll be surprised if it gets serious play.

But stay tuned.

Julius Young
(have a tip? feedback? a worthy idea? you can e mail me at [email protected])

Category: Political developments