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2017 Recap in Workers’ Compensation Developments

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Last year was big for the California workers’ compensation system. A list of bills passed through legislation, all signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, bringing on sweeping changes. As a worker in the state of California, knowing all you can about the workers’ comp system can help you stay protected in the event of a workplace accident or injury. Use this overview of recent changes to the system to stay up to date, and contact an attorney for questions or concerns you may have regarding a recent claim.

Convicted Physicians Cannot Care for Injured Workers

Right at the beginning of 2017, several powerful California labor laws took effect to improve life for workers. As part of these new laws, certain doctors can no longer provide care to injured workers within the state. Physicians the state has convicted of certain types of abuse or fraud in relation to health insurance are no longer eligible to care for injured employees. Examples include doctors who would receive kickbacks for prescribing unnecessary treatments, tests, and medications. The law aims to decrease the costs of workers’ comp while ensuring the safety and rights of injured workers.

Liens Run Longer for Charged Doctors

Assembly Bill No. 1422, passed on September 26th, 2017, also changed the rules for doctors charged with fraud. It extends the stays on liens convicted medical providers file, so that liens run from the time someone files charges until the suspension hearing. AB 1422 closed a loophole that had been permitting medical providers to pursue liens for payment during this time period. The new law also applies to companies in control of people charged with criminal fraud.

Medical Providers Can Access CURES

The California Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) mandate created a database of controlled substance prescriptions medical practitioners dispense in the state of California. The goal of CURES is to regulate the prescribing and dispensing of prescription drugs in an effort to decrease the rate of prescription drug misuse, abuse, and addiction.

As of October 9th, 2017, Assembly Bill No. 40 grants physicians and other medical providers the right to use third-party software to access CURES information. Medical providers have always been able to access CURES but only through the CURES website. Now, physicians can see patients’ prescription drug history on CURES through third-party sites. They can link the CURES database directly with their systems to eliminate the need to log in and perform a search. AB 40 seeks to increase physicians’ awareness of patients’ prescription histories and habits.

Corporate Officers and Directors Can Opt Out of Workers’ Comp Coverage

Senate Bill No. 189 allows certain corporate officers and directors the change to opt out of workers’ compensation coverage for themselves, as long as they sign waivers of consent stating they have health insurance coverage. SB 189 only applies to those persons who own at least 10% of a business. In the past, the threshold was 15% ownership in a business. SB 189 also has a new provision stating the presumption that a person who chooses to sign the waiver does not have workers’ compensation coverage.

Retaliation Complaints Get Deeper Investigations

Senate Bill 306 lets the Labor Commissioner more deeply investigate complaints employees make regarding employer retaliation or discrimination – including retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The Commissioner can now initiate investigations of these claims without first acquiring a court enforcement order. Employees can benefit from easier access to more thorough retaliation investigations.

Extended Deadline for Workers’ Compensation ER Bill Submissions

Emergency room physicians now have 180 days instead of 30 days to submit their bills for caring for injured workers to workers’ comp claims administrators, thanks to Senate Bill 489. The bill only applies to treatment doctors provide under Senate Bill 1 160’s pass-through provisions, in the first 30 days after the accident. The extension could mean injured workers have to wait longer for the division to process workers’ comp claims and issue benefits.