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Changes could be on the horizon for state's workers comp laws

Workers' compensation is a multi-billion-dollar industry here in California. Some $20 billion is paid to workers every year by insurers and/or employers.

Workers' compensation regulations are determined by the state's elected officials. Because multiple groups have an interest in the system, they spend a good deal of time and effort lobbying these officials. The key stakeholders, in addition to employers and insurers, are labor unions, health care providers and attorneys.

When several of these stakeholders agree that a change needs to be made, they can place serious pressure on lawmakers to revise the workers' comp regulations. Changes (commonly billed as "reforms") that favor some of these stakeholders typically aren't good for the others.

One California journalist points out that major reforms take some time to implement and typically occur just once during each governor's time in office. He notes that the last major reform was under Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. The reforms, which increased cash benefits to workers but put stricter cost controls on rehabilitation and medical care, was championed by employers and labor unions, but criticized by workers' compensation attorneys. The changes dropped the overall workers' comp costs for the state. Now instead of having the highest costs in the country, we're second to New York.

Several bills currently being considered by state lawmakers could lead to more reforms under Gov. Gavin Newsom -- possibly in the all-important 2020 election year.

One in the assembly, which is supported by unions and attorneys, would help injured workers and their health care providers challenge denials of treatment by utilization review boards. One of the Senate bills would make it easier for law enforcement officers and firefighters to police officers and firefighters to obtain workers' comp benefits for mental health care.

If you've been injured or sickened as a result of your job, you can't be expected to know all of the current California workers' comp regulations. You just want the money you need to support your family and get the treatment you need. That's why it's essential to have a workers' comp attorney in your corner to help you ensure that you get the compensation you need and deserve.

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