Workers Comp Zone


July and August are often sleepy months in the California workers’ comp world. Workerscompzone has been napping.

But not this week.

Yesterday Governor Brown’s office announced that he has filled one of the long-vacant slots on the WCAB by appointing Katherine Williams Dodd. Ms. Dodd has served as a deputy legal affairs attorney for Brown. The daughter in law of  State Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), she previously worked for the ACLU after graduating from McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. Ms. Dodd comes from a prominent Napa Valley family, as her father started and owns Frog’s Leap Winery. According to a Napa area newspaper, she has been on the board of a Napa based organization, Puertas Abiertas, that provides services to the local Hispanic community.

Although Ms. Dodd has no publicly known workers’ comp experience, the hope here is that her background will give her sensitivity to the sort of issues faced by workers in the California system.

The other noteworthy development is that there are now two pending requests for audits of the California system. A legislative hearing on these is scheduled for tomorrow.

One, filed by California Assemblyman Tom Lackey, a Republican from Palmdale, asks the Legislative Joint Audit Committee to provide an audit focusing on how well the DWC is doing audits of claims administrators. Lackey’s rationale is that targeted audits have decreased and that he has concerns about the DWC’s enforcement efforts.

Here is Lackey’s letter request:


The other audit request has a somewhat different focus. Filed by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, a West Covina Democrat, it requests that a study be done comparing medical treatment delivery in California workers’ comp with treatment delivery under other systems. Rubio suggests that such a study could be done by comparing treatment provided to prison inmates with treatment provided to correctional guards and other California Department of Corrections employees.

Here is Rubio’s letter request:


Rubio’s request cites a report from Lockton, a large insurance brokerage firm. In a future post I’ll comment more on the Lockton study, but suffice it to say that the Lockton study appears to document a large number of claim denials which are reversed later on, causing much frictional cost.

Rubio states that “The Legislature needs its own source of information that compares the costs of quickly accessed medical care for work injuries to the more lengthy process established by SB 863.”

Most of the studies after the 2004 and 2012 reforms have been done either by the insurance industry (CWCI) or by RAND under contract with CHSWC. However, those studies have had a different focus than the audit requests by Lackey and Rubio, both of which suggest specific issues to target.

More information will be helpful to policymakers going forward, so it will be good if the Joint Legislative Audit Committee  approves these requests.

Julius Young