Some Workers' Comp Changes In California For 2012 So Far


San Francisco, CA ( - Here are some of the changes passed by the Legislature in 2011, which became effective in 2012.

AB 228 – State Compensation Insurance Fund: Insurance for California businesses with out-of-state employees

Summary: This bill gives State Fund authority to offer workers' compensation insurance coverage for California employers who have out-of-state employees.

Why: AB228 streamlines the insurance process for California employers and brokers by allowing us to offer coverage for California-based businesses insured with State Fund, who previously would have needed to obtain a separate workers' compensation policy for their employees working out of state.

AB 378 – Pharmacy Products

Summary:  This bill sets the maximum reimbursement for compound drug products and physician-dispensed pharmacy goods until a fee schedule is adopted by the Administrative Director (AD) of the Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC). This bill also makes it unlawful for a physician to refer patients to pharmacies in which they or their immediate family members have a financial interest, with the exception of physical retail outlets commonly accessed by the public or mail-order pharmacies serving a broad national or regional market.

Why: Placing a cap on reimbursement for compound drugs and physician-dispensed pharmacy products and removing inappropriate financial incentives will help ensure that payments are reasonable and that pharmacy products received by injured employees are medically appropriate. This bill implements recommendations made in a January 2011 study prepared for the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation (CHSWC) that explored the issues surrounding using compound drugs in order to assess whether policy changes were needed.

AB 507 – Controlled Substances: Pain Management

Summary: This bill revises the Pain Patient's Bill of Rights and repeals law authorizing the Department of Justice to employ a physician to interview and examine patients in connection with the use of controlled substances.

Why: This bill removes outdated provisions in existing law that are inconsistent with current best practices in pain management. This legislation was sponsored by the American Cancer Society to improve policy for appropriate pain treatment for patients with cancer and other diseases or conditions causing pain.

SB 459 – Independent Contractors: Willful Misclassification

Summary: This bill enables the Labor Workforce Development Agencies and courts to enforce a new cumulative, specific cause of action with civil liability for willful misclassifications of workers by employers or persons in Labor Code section 226.8.

Why :California has put a renewed focus on the growing trend of “avoiding employee status for an individual by voluntarily and knowingly misclassifying that individual as an independent contractor.” This bill is intended to send a clear message that employers who misclassify employees will face stiff penalties.

AB 335 – Workers' compensation: Notices

Summary:  This bill requires the DWC to work with CHSWC to develop revised regulations regarding benefit notices to injured employees and posting notices. This bill requires that the notices are in plain language and that the agencies develop informational material about the claims process, written in plain language, and made available, including on the DWC website.

Why: Benefit notices written in easily-understandable language will help create better outcomes for injured workers, and help reduce frictional legal expenses resulting from confusion. CHSWC issued a 2010 report concluding that the currently-used benefit notices are too complex, difficult to understand and not standardized. This bill implements recommendations made in the report.

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