SB 1160 (Mendoza) continues to march on.
Following a hearing held today at the California Assembly insurance committee, the vote was unanimous to pass SB 1160 out of committee.
The list of supporters who testified or indicated support included a who’s who of labor and employer side lobbyists. Among them was Christy Bouma (California Firefighters), Sean McNally (a CHSWC member), Mitch Seaman (California Labor Federation), Barry Broad (Teamsters, Machinists, Longshoreman & ATU unions), Lori Kammerer & Clay Jackson (employer lobbyists) & Jeremy Smith for the California Building Trades Council. Speakers from UPS, WOEMA, the California Medical Association, the LA Sheriffs, and the Communication Workers joined a handful of others appearing to support the bill. Adding support were Jeremy Merz on behalf of the Cal Chamber and Jason Schmelzer on behalf of CCWC.
I was included in stakeholder meetings on the bill, as were a wide range of stakeholder representatives, including some applicant attorneys who are CAAA members. On August 17 I did a post “Tweaking” which outlined the basics of SB 1160 (see the link to that post at the bottom of this one).
The most controversial aspect of SB 1160 has turned out to be the provisions that would require documentation for certain doctors who treat on a lien (since group health plans and Taft-Hartley plans are exempt from lien filing fees, the provisions would not apply to them).
My understanding is that further amendments to the bill have been made that are not on the legislative website as of late afternoon today (August 25), though they will probably be posted tomorrow. One of the amendments will apparently incorporate some of the provisions of AB 2503.
Today three opponents testified. Carl Brakensiek and Steve Cattolica testified on behalf of CSIMS and several medical specialty societies. Brakensiek noted that he had not yet seen the latest amendments and that he did support AB 1244 (Gray), which deals with workers’ comp fraud.
His concern, however, is that SB 1160 will in his view increase friction costs and shift workers onto other payors, including county hospitals, Medicare and Medi-Cal. Starting with a history that liens have been a part of workers’ compensation since the Boynton Act, he noted that they have served as a safety net to avoid gaps in coverage.
The volume of liens has been a major problem in recent years, however. And in recent years high profile cases of fraud and abuse often involved schemes where workers were treated as cattle and traded among doctors treating on liens.
SB 1160 does not prevent treatment on a lien. It does, however, require doctors who would treat on a lien to sign a declaration certifying that the treatment meets certain criteria. Those include a provision that the doctor “has documentation that medical treatment has been neglected or unreasonably refused to the employee”. It should be noted that that phrase uses the connector “or” and does not require a showing that there was unreasonable neglect.
But concerns about this did seem to get some traction with Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles). Gatto wondered whether the “unreasonably” language would lead to confusion and litigation. A short discussion regarding several scenarios developed but ultimately Gatto joined other panel members in voting to OK the bill. Others noted that it had been a very delicate balance getting a wide range of stakeholders on board with the bill, and removing the “unreasonably” language would likely sink the bill.
Also opposing the bill was Arsineh Arakel, an attorney who appears to be associated with a group that I’m not aware of that is calling itself the Golden State Injured Workers Organization.
Here is the DIR “Issue Brief” on the bill:
And here is the CSIMs response to the DIR “Issue Brief”:
Here is my prior post “Tweaking”:
This is the link to the legislature’s site so you can search for the latest version of the bill:
Stay tuned as the legislative season enters its endgame.