As you are probably aware, Governor Brown has signed a major workers’ compensation reform bill, SB 863. The bill includes a sizable increase in permanent disability benefits and also includes many other significant provisions. Which ones will bring about the most significant and lasting procedural changes to the system? Here are the likely candidates in my opinion:
• Lien reform—I expect an entirely different claims environment in Southern California in the next few years. As the current liens are resolved and lien claimants are saddled with a statute of limitations and a filing fee, the number of liens filed in future years should decrease dramatically.
• Independent Medical Review (IMR)—WCAB judges will no longer be required to resolve medical treatment disputes. It remains to be seen exactly how smoothly this process will go but there should eventually be benefit to all parties in having medical disputes resolved by medical experts.
• Independent Bill Review (IBR)—This combines elements of IMR and lien reform. WCAB judges will no longer be required to resolve billing disputes and providers will be required to pay a fee to obtain an IBR so the frequency of billing disputes that require formal intervention should decrease.
It is expected that these three provisions will transform the current system by reducing the administrative burden on WCAB judges. Consequently, judges will spend less time adjudicating liens and no time addressing medical treatment and billing disputes, allowing them to focus their efforts on injured workers and their claims. It’s my hope the system will be more equipped than ever to serve the needs of injured workers and their employers.