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Brown administration backs proposed workers’ comp overhaul

SACRAMENTO -- California Gov. Jerry Brown is supporting an ambitious effort to overhaul the state’s system for giving medical care and compensation to injured workers.

Late Thursday, Brown’s Department of Industrial Relations, the agency that administers the workers’ compensation insurance system, released a statement saying it’s backing a proposal negotiated by labor unions and large employers. The governor’s office endorsed the comments.

“Representatives of labor and employers have been working vigorously to reform California’s workers’ compensation system before projected rate increases push California to a crisis situation,” said agency Director Christine Baker. “The result of this work is a comprehensive reform proposal that protects workers and employers by improving benefits and ending wasteful litigation.”

The plan, which has yet to be introduced in the waning days of the legislative session, has run into strong opposition from the lawyers who represent victims of on-the-job accidents and illnesses. The California Applicants’ Attorneys Assn. complains that the overhaul would cut many workers’ permanent disability benefits instead of boosting them.

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Supporters counter that the changes would increase benefits to permanently disabled workers by $720 million a year and pay for them by streamlining the $16.2-billion system by reducing litigation, fraud and inefficiencies.

The proposal was crafted by the California Labor Federation, the Walt Disney Co., Safeway Inc., UPS, Grimmway Farms and other large, self-insured employers during months of negotiations.

It’s now being shopped around to numerous special interest groups at the state Capitol and likely will be amended into a bill in the state Assembly by late next week.

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