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July 7, 2014
Another View: Workers' comp 'fixes' will result in more litigation

MC_SKI_WEEKEND.03.JPG(July 7 - By Jeanne Cain, Special to The Bee)

The focus of our workers' compensation system must continue to be timely, quality medical care that returns injured workers back to the job as quickly as possible.

Short recovery times benefit the employee, the employer and the system. Recently, there have been calls for excessive penalties in the system that would provide an incentive for unnecessary litigation, ("Legislature is letting down California's injured workers," Viewpoints, June 26).

An isolated and tragic circumstance has been used to justify the need for these excessive penalties. The fact is substantial penalties were imposed in that situation.

Any attempt to add more litigation to an already overly litigious system will only create havoc by driving up costs that will primarily benefit the lawyers without helping workers get back on the job.

The workers' compensation system is not perfect. No health system that processes more than 20 million medical transactions per year is. But, as a general rule, employers are getting it right.

Research shows that they are approving 94 percent of all medical treatment requests. Lawmakers built in a new system in 2012 to watch over these decisions using objective medical criteria.

In the event an employer makes a mistake, state medical reviewers will step in to ensure proper treatment is delivered. These revisions have improved the system for employees.

According to a survey by the Division of Workers' Compensation, a vast majority of injured workers are getting the treatment needed and are pleased with their physicians and specialists.

Penalties encourage compliance and responsible claims handling. Excessive penalties, however, will drive litigation and lengthen claim resolution without necessarily helping the injured worker.

This will drive up costs for California employers who already operate in the third-most-expensive workers' compensation system in the country. Workers' compensation costs directed toward timely treatment and benefits for on-the-job injuries is money well spent.

On the other hand, unnecessary system costs take money away from employers who would otherwise grow their business and invest in their employees.

Jeanne Cain is California Chamber of Commerce executive vice president.