On November 15th, 2018, Workcompcentral, the leading media voice in workers’ compensation, addressed outgoing governor Gerry Brown’s legacy and impact on workers’ compensation in California. While employer and insurance company representatives and lobbyists praised Governor Brown’s record on workers’ compensation issues, Alan Gurvey, managing partner of Rowen Gurvey & Win, was outspoken on how Governor Brown has ignored the plight of the injured worker, supporting harmful legislation that has led to delays and denials of benefits. You can find the complete article at http://rgwlawfirm.com/news/131. Alan Gurvey's full blog on the topic follows below.
When Governor Brown took the helm, the injured worker advocates were optimistic that their voices would be heard and that he would be sympathetic to their plight. While there was an understanding that fraud in the system needed to be addressed, there was hope that addressing fraud would not impact the entitlements and medical treatment needs of the legitimately injured workers. Under Governor Schwarzenegger we had seen dramatic legislation that changed the terrain of the delivery of workers’ compensation benefits. The injured workers and their advocates did not expect, under Governor Brown, the erosion of benefits, and the erosion of the system, specifically dealing with medical treatment needs. From my perspective, it was rather shocking and it was a blow to my idealistic political perspective to see that money interests and “cost containment” drove the legislation under Governor Brown. It seems that he was very responsive to cutting costs while not being cognizant and aware of how these cost cutting measures detrimentally impacted those who were legitimately injured. Allowing the employer and insurance companies free rein, so to speak, over medical provider networks and utilization review is an absolute unadulterated slap in the face to the grand bargain. Injured workers’ legislation under Governor Brown has dramatically and egregiously ignored the rights and entitlements of injured workers.
After talking to many legislators, it was clear that they felt pressure to stay in line with the Governor’s driven legislation in 2012. They certainly did not have time to review and research the impact that that SB 863 would have on their constituents. There were negotiations through the 11th hour, and it became apparent that no one really understood what was being negotiated. Taking away the judicial intervention on medical treatment issues was a recipe for disaster, especially when the ultimate arbiter had no checks and balances. That is the reality of independent medical review. The costs of litigation have skyrocketed given the minutia of this legislation. When Governor Brown chose to maintain his relationships with insurance companies, employers and other money interests, it did nothing to strengthen the benefit delivery system. On the contrary, it simply created more ways to deny and delay benefit delivery, ultimately costing more money in administration. I think Governor Brown’s legacy, at least in worker’s compensation, will be one of ignoring the rights of the individuals and, in doing so, creating poverty and the worsening of medical conditions far more harmful than what we would expect to result from injuries on the job.
While Governor Brown held himself out to be a Democrat, certainly his legislation and policies did not show any sympathy for those legitimately injured on the job. There are many defense people, applicant people and insurance company people who could put their heads together and come up with workable solutions to our issues, but Governor Brown chose to focus on unions and employers who have very little understanding of what goes on in the trenches. The pendulum swung way too far to the right in dealing with worker’s compensation under Governor Brown.
Always when a new governor is elected, there is hope that there will be legitimate concern and focus on helping people who are injured on the job. This would mean that the governor would need to address medical provider networks, ensuring that doctors know how to write substantial medical evidence reports and are committed to treating injured workers. It would also mean that utilization review and independent medical review are overhauled so that there is fairness and medical credibility injected in the decision making process. Moreover, it would mean that there is due process in addressing medical treatment through the courts.
There are so many fixes that are necessary, and only time will tell whether governor Newsom will focus on these fixes, or will simply throw injured workers under the bus, as Governor Brown did.
Alan Gurvey, Managing Partner