The California Division of Workers’ Compensation is finally on the verge of moving forward with an electronic panel selection system.
After California jettisoned procedures which allowed each party to select its own QME, problems arose with delays in the panel QME selection process.
Although various efforts were made by various DWC administrators to reduce backlogs, there have been many periods where delays in getting panel QMEs in represented cases ran well over 3 months. Unrepresented workers also experienced some delays, though not of the same magnitude.
In represented worker cases, attorneys, workers, insurers and employers were unhappy with the chronic delays. Cases took longer to resolve. Simple disputes sometimes mushroomed.
Parties sometimes found that they submitted documents only to wait many months to find that a panel request was rejected on some technicality, forcing them to start all over again.
The Medical Unit processing the requests was roundly criticized, yet it was largely short-staffed. At various points infusion of summer student interns or shifting of tasks allowed the unit to catch up somewhat, but the process generally remained a bureaucratic nightmare.
For several years the DWC has promised that it would develop an online panel request portal.
Several months ago I attended a stakeholder focus group at the DWC where DWC staffers presented the rough outlines of a new panel request portal. Reaction was mostly positive.
And now the DWC has unveiled for public comment proposed regs pertaining to the portal.
Judging from comments from key stakeholders, the response is positive, though there are some concerns.
What are the key concerns?
The most commonly expressed concern is that there needs to be a period of beta testing and a grace period where parties requesting panels can use either the electronic format of the old paper format.
Other concerns were more technical:
-Several expressed concerns that the request form should retain information as to whether there was a prior panel received