Update on the Workers’ Compensation Bills Pending Before California Legislature

In the beginning of 2017, the California Legislature introduced several new workers’ compensation bills. At this point, 2 bills have fallen by the wayside: AB221 and SB562.

Below are the mid-year updates on pending legislation.

Assembly Bill 221 (AB221) would have amended Sections 4600 and 5005 of the Labor Code relating to workers’ compensation cumulative trauma claims. This bill would have provided that liens for treatment in cumulative trauma claims settling by way of compromise and release for $25,000.00 or less would be deemed non-compensable. Boehm & Associates appeared and expressed its opposition to the bill. The bill failed passage in committee.

Senate Bill 562 (SB562), also known as the Healthy California Act, sought to provide comprehensive, universal, single-payer healthcare coverage for all residents of the state. As mentioned in the LA Times, “under the measure, the State of California would pay the healthcare costs for all residents, eliminating premiums, co-pays, and deductibles that are characteristic of the present healthcare system.”  Because health coverage was proposed to be “24/7,” the effect of this bill on the current system of workers’ compensation medical treatment benefits was the subject of speculation and debate. Ultimately, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) announced on June 23, 2017 that the proposal would not advance to a public hearing before the assembly because the bill in its current form failed to address many issues, including “financing delivery of care, cost controls, or the realities of needed action by Trump administration and voters to make SB562 a genuine piece of legislation.”

The following bills continue to advance through the legislative process:

Assembly Bill 44 (AB44) would amend Section 4600.05 to the Labor Code. This bill would add terrorist attack workplace violence injuries to the list of medical conditions for which aggregate temporary disability payments may be made for up to 240 weeks over the course of five years. The bill is currently in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

Assembly Bill 206 (AB206) would amend Section 3351 and 3352 of the Labor Code to broaden the definition of a household employee for workers’ compensation purposes by removing the exclusion of an employee who was employed, or was contracted to be employed, for less than 52 hours. Labor Code Section 3351 (d) would be amended to state that any person employed by the owner or occupant of a residential dwelling will be regarded as an employee “without regard to immigration status.” The bill is currently in the Assembly Committee on Insurance.

Assembly Bill 553 (AB553) would amend Section 139.48 of the Labor Code to require full annual disbursement of the $120 million in allotted funds in the Return-to-Work Supplemental Benefit Fund originally established under SB863. The maximum payout per eligible worker would be $25,000.00. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee Labor and Industrial Relations.

Assembly Bill 570 (AB570) would amend Section 4663 of the Labor Code to prohibit apportionment of physical injury occurring on or after January 1, 2018 based on pregnancy, childbirth, or other medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. The bill was referred to the Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations and Appropriations.

Assembly Bill 680 (AB680) would amend Section 77 of the Labor Code. This legislation would require any study conducted or contracted for by the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation to be the subject of a public hearing to discuss the purpose and design of the proposed study. The bill was referred to the Assembly the Committee on Insurance.

Assembly Bill 1295 (AB1295) would amend Section 4656 of the Labor Code, relating to the workers’ compensation temporary disability payments and the 104-week cap. It proposes to exclude from the 104-week cap temporary disability paid or owed from the date of denial of treatment until it is authorized. The bill is currently in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

Boehm & Associates will continue to keep you updated regarding legislative issues.