Labor unions are making a late-blooming effort to raise long-frozen benefits for workers with job-related illnesses and injuries and promising employers enough administrative savings to pay for them.
A 45-point summary of the proposed legislation is circulating among lobbyists who specialize in the multi-billion-dollar workers' compensation system, seeking to undo, in part, the reforms that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pushed through the Legislature eight years ago.
The changes could be placed into Senate Bill 863, a workers' compensation measure being carried by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, when their labor union sponsors line up enough support. Business support is critical because Gov. Jerry Brown has indicated that he wouldn't sign legislation on the subject that's opposed by employers.
However, the administrative changes included in the draft are already drawing heavy opposition from lawyers who specialize in workers' compensation cases. Their umbrella organization is denouncing it as worse than the Schwarzenegger reforms.
It's unknown how the other two major stakeholder groups, medical care providers and insurers, would react to the proposed changes, but they appear to cut into medical payments as well.
The legislation promises about $700 million a year in benefit increases for those with permanent injuries, while saving more than $1 billion. The savings would come from, among other things, scaling back considerations of future earning capacity in setting disability benefits and eliminating certain medical conditions as factors.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to clarify that the language could be placed in SB 863. Updated 5:03 p.m., Aug. 14, 2012.