Exercise Your Right to Vote And Help Protect Your Workers' Compensation Benefits
One of the greatest rights we have as citizens of the United States is the right to vote! Our state and counties thrive when eligible voters participate. The General Election is November 6; we at GEKLAW encourage all of you to vote and participate in this fundamental right.
The Impact on Workers' Compensation Benefits
The California Legislature determines the Workers' Compensation laws that provide benefits to injured workers. Each year brings new bills on workers' compensation issues that will affect medical and monetary benefits provided for those hurt at work. Every eight to 10 years a major reform blows through the capitol and has a long-lasting impact on the future of workers' compensation.
"We are all still feeling many of the effects of the last big overhaul of SB 863 that became law in late 2012, with most changes going into effect in January 2013," explains Erika Vargas, a senior attorney at GEKLAW. "This included a major change to getting the medical care that your doctor feels is appropriate—the Utilization Review and Independent Medical Review processes. In addition, another law that passed in 2015, and mandated in 2017, is AB 2411, establishing an evidence-based drug formulary designed to ensure that injured workers are prescribed the most effective treatment for their condition."
Governor Vetoes Important Bills
In the last few months, the Legislature and Governor have been evaluating this year's crop of workers' compensation bills. On September 23, 2018, Governor Brown vetoed several workers' compensation bills, including one that would have excluded race, gender and national origin as apportionment factors to consider by doctors in their medical opinions, and a bill that would have required that all of the $120 million Return to Work fund be paid out each year. Both bills would have been of great benefit to injured workers and clarified existing law on these issues.
Recently, the California Supreme Court entered the fray. In the King v. CompPartners decision, the Court concluded that that utilization review physicians cannot be sued for malpractice, upholding that the workers' compensation system provides injured employees with an exclusive remedy against an employer. The Court suggested that the system is not working as intended, by not insuring access to medical treatment for injured workers, and suggested the Legislature revisit the issue.
Knowledge Is Power
"As laws evolve and change, it is important for every worker to understand the current status of workers' compensation laws in California," says Vargas. "At GEKLAW, we work diligently to educate workers, legislators, colleagues, etc. on the challenges facing injured workers, and we stay tuned into the political issues that affect our clients and the system.
"It is equally important for you to make informed decisions and understand what is on the table that could impact you in ways you may not realize." You can access more information about candidates, ballot measures, and analysis to help you make your choices. For more information, visit the California Secretary of State website at voterguide.sos.ca.gov.
In addition, it is vital that you let your elected or running officials know what you think. Based on trends we've seen, there will likely be further changes to the workers' compensation system that may negatively impact you, a friend or family member who has an ongoing case. If the elected or running officials do not hear from you, they will not hear it at all. They must hear your voice!
You can get involved in the process by contacting your local State Assembly member and State Senator representing your district. If you need assistance in doing so, visit https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.