Workers Comp Zone


What lies in store for the California workers’ compensation system in 2024?

Test your workers’ comp chops by taking the yearly Workers Comp Zone quiz below. 

In some instances there may be more than one plausible answer. If you’re a lousy soothsayer, we won’t tell.

1.By the end of 2024 we’ll find that: a) California’s large budget deficit negatively affected DIR/DWC funding; b) funding for the DIR & DWC actually increased; c) legislators attempted to raid DIR/DWC user funding to direct monies to other priorities; d) DIR/DWC funding was not decreased or increased

2. By 2025 the number of QMEs in the California system will: a) continue to decrease as the graying QME pool edges out of the system; b) stay stable, though deficient in many QME specialties; c) clearly be increasing due to QME education efforts and the increases in the QME fee schedule; d) drop when efforts are made to revise the QME fee schedule downward

3. By the end of 2024 the employment status of platform-based Uber and other gig workers will be: a) determined to be exempt from AB-5 after the California Supreme Court in Castellanos v. State of California rejects an attack on the constitutionality of Prop 22; b) determined to be employees under AB-5 as the California Supreme Court rules in Castellanos v. State of California that Prop 22 is unconstitutional; c) still unclear in light of a Biden administration 2024 Department of Labor rule that would potentially classify such workers as employees instead of as independent contractors; d) still unclear as a federal court attack on AB-5 in Lydia Olson v. California wound its way through the court system

4. In the California legislature in 2024 we’ll see: a) almost no substantive legislative activity pertaining to workers’ comp, as the budget deficit will drive the agenda; b) a few “small ball” attempts to tweak the system; c) more vetoes of workers’ comp bills by Governor Newsom; d) a proposed significant comp reform bill that would raise PD benefits but require some labor/applicant concessions

5. Workers’ comp costs in California will: a) continue to fall, continuing a multi-year trend of falling average charged workers’ comp rates; b) rise despite efforts by Insurance Commissioner Lara to adopt lower recommended rates; c) rise as Lara recommends higher rates based on trends including increased medical inflation; d) not appreciably change

6. In 2024 we’ll see workers’ comp controversy over the following: a) fallout from a 2023 appellate decision that rejected the WCAB’s reconsideration grant for study protocol; b) the quantity and quality of UR denials of medical treatment; c) the conclusions of a 2024 RAND study of the SIBTF; d) staffing at the DIR/DWC; 

7. In 2024 California workers’ comp will be: a) in the spotlight as increased costs create some employer concern; b) not in the spotlight at all as the system bumps along without significant change; c) seen by some as a success as problems continue to plague EDD’s SDI and UI programs and Cal/OSHA; d) in turmoil as stakeholder groups attempt to create reform deals

8. Issues getting more attention in 2024 will include: a) heat illness claims; b) a spike in COVID-19 claims after new variants emerge; c) the adequacy of current indemnity minimums; d) the small number of doctors generating large IMR appeals; e) wildfire smoke claims; f) efforts to enact 24-Hour care; g) effects of increased migration on the labor market generally and the comp system specifically

9. Bonus: What unanticipated trend or Black Swan event may rock the workers’ comp world in 2024? 

Stay tuned in 2024. I’ll be covering the California workers’ comp scene.

Julius Young