While plenty of Democrats and members of their interest-group coalition are grumbling about the work comp deal, the California Labor Federation was surprisingly muted in its response. Despite complaining that "the deck was stacked against workers from the beginning” by a governor taking money from the same special interests who want to “reduce injured workers’ benefits,” federation President Tom Rankin said workers “did fare better” in this agreement than they would have under the two previous Republican governors.
“Injured workers will be able to receive immediate medical treatment rather than experience delays that perpetuate suffering. Injured workers will also be able to pre-designate their physician within their group health plans so that they can go to their own doctor, not the company doctor. And unions will be able to negotiate for integrated health coverage for health insurance and disability coverage.”
Rankin did endorse rate regulation, which isn’t part of the package.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:20 PM
When Democratic Assemblyman Juan Vargas stepped to the lectern in a Capitol conference room this morning, he admitted that he wasn't sure if it was day or night. A few minutes later, the groggy lawmaker almost forgot the name of his host, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Vargas’ confusion was understandable, given that he had been up all night putting the finishing touches on the bipartisan workers comp deal that was approved by a two-house conference committee at about 3:30 am Thursday. But Vargas and several colleagues, including Nunez, also seemed disoriented about the California workers comp insurance market as they pushed for state regulation of comp rates, a feature not part of the package agreed to late Wednesday. The Democrats tried to argue that without state regulation of the private insurance industry, the cost-savings achieved in this package won’t ever reach employers. But 80 percent of employers are either self-insured or covered by the state workers compensation fund, which doesn’t earn a profit. So those employers should see immediate savings from any reforms that actually cut costs from the system. The Democrats’ proposal, which is almost certain to be vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, would affect only a relative handful of policies, and it’s not clear it would help them all that much either. And it would probably kill any chance that more firms would start selling policies in California, where a lack of competition is the market's biggest problem. One especially odd feature of their regulatory plan: it expires automatically after two years. Why would a company not now selling workers comp insurance in California do so under those conditions, when they know they can simply wait two years and avoid the whole mess? The rate regulation proposal is best seen as an attempt by the Democrats to satisfy their constituents in organized labor and the legal community, who hold this concept dear, and to embarrass the governor by forcing him to veto a bill the Democrats claim is good for the business community.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:35 PM
The workers comp deal was approved by an Assembly-Senate conference committee, literally in the dead of night. The measure, SB 899, was taken up at 2:34 a.m. and approved about one hour later. The 6-0 vote makes it all but certain that the bill will pass both houses of the Legislature, perhaps as soon as today, on bipartisan votes. Some Republicans are grumbling that the reforms don't go far enough, and Democrats are complaining about the lack of rate regulation, but with the support of the governor and the leaders of both parties in both houses, the fix is in.
Posted by dweintraub at 5:52 AM