One of Governor Brown’s greatest landmark reforms, Senate Bill 863 passed on August 1, 2012, and was signed into law on September 18, 2012.
This particular bill made wide-ranging changes to California’s worker’s compensation system. The Bill took effect on January 1, 2013, though some of its provisions take effect at a later date.
SB 863 was the outcome of months of intense negotiations between representatives of employers and labor employers, who focused on two equally significant goals:
Increasing the permanent disability benefits paid to any injured workers to compensate for the long-term effects of workplace injuries.
Enhancing the efficiency of the California workers’ compensation system by decreasing the costs and period it takes to deliver those benefits and resolve disputes.
SB 863 made major changes in the following areas:
- Updates the Official Medical Fee Schedule
- Simplifies the permanent disability method of rating
- Simplifies the supplemental job displacement voucher system.
- Boosts medical provider networks
- Resolves any bill payment disputes through independent bill review
- Resolves any medical treatment disagreements via independent medical review
- Develops fee schedules for copy services, vocational experts, interpreters, and in-home health care.
- Requires activation fee of payment of filing for liens.
- Increases permanent disability values
- Provide extra payments for workers with disproportionate wage loss.
Senate Bill 863 received high resistance from medical doctors, injured workers and labor organizations citing several significant reasons. They claimed this bill dramatically changed the conditions for underpaid and unpaid medical-legal providers.
It means that those who relied on pre-2013 strategies most likely discovered that their legitimate charges have been entirely dismissed due to failure to follow the remedies mandated by SB 863.
In fact, the effects of SB 863 on those injured on the job worsen than those of SB 899, the 2004 Workers’ Compensation “Reform Act.”
Reasons why many injured workers, doctors, and labor organizations firmly opposed the bill:
- Even though it purported to raise permanent disability (PD) compensation, this bill actually makes it so difficult for any injured workers to qualify for the disability required to get the increased compensation.
- SB863 would also make it impossible for several injured workers to receive accurate disability ratings and enough PD compensation.
- It forces several injured workers-those who are extremely injured as well as those who are unable to go back to the job- to lose compensation. This includes several works who suffer from psychological, sexual and sleep disturbances resulting from their injuries.
- Extremely injured workers who are unable to go back to their job would get a lower money award than under the current system.
- Injured workers would not be able to qualify for PD compensation depend on the exact harm their work injury causes to their future earning capacity. Geklaw advices that there would be no definitive way to measure the level of disability, thus turning it into an entirely arbitrary system.
- SB 863 was trying to be forced through the legislature without sufficient public hearings to address the concerns of medical doctors, injured workers, and their attorney advocates.
- The proposed legislation is over 250 pages and hasn’t been formally introduced for the all-state legislators to review thoroughly. This is the same thing which occurred in 2004 that resulted in a devastating effect on injured workers and their families.