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Every so often, sweeping legislative changes are made to the workers' compensation system. California's workers' compensation system is highly polarized. It is a multi-billion dollar industry involving millions of claimants and vendors. "Historically, the contending factions have formed alliances and fought pitched battles in the Legislature about once a decade." More "It's all part of a familiar drill after the Legislature makes major systemic changes. It takes several years for new rules to be drafted and take effect and for real-world impacts – which are often different from those assumed in the legislation – to reveal themselves....Pressure then begins to build for another overhaul....That should happen around 2020 and will be a problem for the next governor and a Legislature without members who voted on the 2012 version." Dan Walters, SacBee

The most major changes in recent years occurred in January 2004 (SB 228 and AB 227), April 2004 (SB 899), and January 2013 (SB 863): see links below.

The reforms watered down injured workers' benefits to save costs to employers. But the increased bureaucracy the reforms created and the litigation caused by undefined terms and phrases and poorly thought out wording increased costs and "friction" (trans: lawyers and litigation). Only time will tell whether the latest changes will make California's workers' compensation fair and affordable.

We had barely adjusted to the sweeping changes wrought by SB 899 when it was declared a failure just 8 years later and the system was again declared "broken." So SB 863, another last-minute, back room deal, was passed without even having been read by the vast majority of the legislators in both houses who voted to pass this on the last day of the session. As this editor noted in 2008, "With every change in the law, new services sprang up, to capitalize on the obscurity of the new “reforms” and to get their piece of the comp carrion."  See Comp Administration: Soup to Nuts.

Noted commentator David DePaolo had this to say about SB 863 and the regulatory process: "Let's get one thing straight - SB 863 was not the intent of the Legislature....It was the intent of Big Self Insured Business (and Big Labor at the desperate request of Big Self Insured Business to get their support)....The Legislature, on the other hand, was just along for the ride....And don't believe that the lobbying and, in my opinion, undue influence, is over. Big Self Insured Business is intimately involved in drafting the regulations that are to implement SB 863....In truth, the regulatory process is as politically influenced as the legislative process."  Another DePaolo comment: "I was suspicious when SB 863 was proposed, negotiated, authored, voted, signed, etc. It was, and remains, politics of the worst order in my opinion, with little regard for the public outside of those special interests at the table at the time of negotiation."

In his last blog for 2012, DePaolo noted that California workers' compensation is "the single largest privatized social benefit system in the world, second only to Social Security in the delivery of medical and indemnity benefits....When you get down to it, workers' compensation, at its most basic function, is just taking care of people."

Label Item Links Comments
Labor Code The whole SB 863 bill showing changes from previous law SB 863 Official Version showing changes from previous law  
  The official version of SB 899
SB 899  
Regulations/Rules See DWC's page for updates 863 Rulemaking  
Summaries SB 863 Overview: handout from DWC 20th annual educational conference 2/13

CHSWC's Summary of SB 899

DWC Overview

CHSWC Summary

Websites DWC on SB 228 and AB 227 SB 228/AB 227

DWC on SB 899 DWC 899  
  DWC on SB 863 DWC 863  
  CHSWC on Reforms CHSWC Reforms  
Practice Tips Read the new laws and regulations carefully, with your blood pressure cuff handy. Figure out the best strategy to protect your clients' interests, without letting resentment get in the way.  
Magazine Articles Rosemary's Baby Redux: How the Labor Code Got
Hijacked to Hell by Marjory Harris, Esq.

A Dog's Breakfast: Another Editor's Rant on Reform
Editorial Opinion by Marjory Harris, Esq.

Update on Limping Into 2010: Another Editor's Rant on Reform: Editorial Opinion by Marjory Harris, Esq.

The Metamorphosis of California's Workers’ Compensation System: The Editor’s Rant on Reforms by Marjory Harris, Esq.

Comp Administration, Soup to Nuts: The Editor’s Rant on Reforms by Marjory Harris, Esq.
Rosemary's Baby

A Dog's Breakfast

Update on Limping Into 2010


Comp Administration: Soup to Nuts

Article SB 863 Checklist and Reference Guide by Robert G. Rassp, Esq. SB 863 Checklist
Downloadable PDF The whole SB 863 bill showing changes from previous law SB 863 Official Version showing changes from previous law
Downloadable PDF A First Look at SB 863 by Michael Sullivan, Esq. Sullivan on SB 863

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