Earlier this month, the Legislature approved substantive workers’-compensation reform, which will provide relief to employers from rapidly rising workers’-compensation rates and ensure that injured workers have access to quality health care that improves their ability to return to work. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democrats and Republicans all worked together to craft a proposal that demonstrates the current bipartisan spirit of compromise and collaboration in Sacramento. By adopting the measure, California took a significant step toward strengthening the economy.
Business owners contact my office every day to relate their stories about the cost of workers’-compensation premiums that challenge their ability to stay in business. Despite the reforms enacted last year, workers’ compensation has continued to be a drain on our state economy. Many businesses and nonprofit agencies have reduced their workforces or left the state, and some have closed down entirely. In my own business, workers’-compensation premiums today are two to three times those of only a few years ago.
The recently passed legislation, Senate Bill 899, introduced by Senator Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, contains a number of reforms that cut waste and excessive litigation while adding new initiatives for workers and employers to resolve conflicts and increase the quality of care provided. The bill includes objective standards for determining disability ratings, nationally recognized standards of care for injury treatment, and apportionment of compensation for non-work-related injuries. All of these provisions help bring stability and predictability to the workers’-compensation system.
SB 899 also provides for immediate medical care for injured workers, offers incentives to encourage them to return to the job, and makes provisions for the seamless delivery of health care and disability payments. These features will help injured workers begin their recovery process faster, maintain a higher level of post-injury income and receive their benefits without the difficulties of the current system.
There is more work to be done to build California’s economy. The bipartisan effort in Sacramento must continue if we are to improve the lives of those who live, work and do business in this great state.