We Got Stevens, But Where is the Investigation?

Posted By Thomas F. Martin, PLC || 6-Nov-2015

When there is an aviation disaster, CNN goes to breaking news. Television stations interrupt programming, and social media spreads the word of the event across the internet. The sense of urgency is immediate.

The world stops and asks “How many lives were involved? How can such a disaster be avoided in the future?”

We all depend on the government to learn all it can, and insist changes be made so such disasters don't occur in the future. That's why we have the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a U.S. government agency that investigates aviation and other transportation accidents. Their job is prevention and safety.

But is the government as responsive when disasters occur in the California workers’ compensation system? The answer is no. Crashes are happening every single day. Oddly, everyone seems to be noticing—but an investigation by the Division of Workers' Compensation to fix the problem has yet to occur.

The national press has noticed. Throughout 2015, NPR, ProPublica, Salon, Rolling Stone and other national outlets have covered the plight of California injured workers and the destruction that the current Utilization Review and Independent Medical Review systems have caused.

Even members of the United States Congress have noticed. According to an NPR and ProPublica story last month titled, “Lawmakers Seek Federal Oversight of Workers Comp as States Limit Benefits,” so much medical treatment cost-shifting is going on that some Senate and House members wrote a letter to the U.S. Labor Department. In their letter they specifically asked them to start policing states again to make "sure that the workers’ comp programs pay appropriate benefits."

Even the Division of Workers Compensation’s own analysis this year "SB 863: Assessment of Workers’ Compensation Reforms" determined that in 2014, 13% of the 180,000 Utilization Review denials were reversed by Independent Medical Reviewers. Meaning, insurance company Utilization Review vendors got it wrong 23,400 times in a single year.

That's a lot of crashes.

So, while the Stevens case is on its journey to the Supreme Court, what will it take for the government agency responsible for protecting working Californians—the Division of Workers Compensation—to arrive at the scene and investigate?

Categories: Workers Compensation
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