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All eyes on Sacramento as deadline to introduce work comp related bills only hours away

The California State Assembly and State Senate made history last year when they passed Senate Bill 863 on the last day of the legislative session. The bill marked the first time since 2004 that state lawmakers choose to initiate a massive overhaul of the state's billion dollar work comp system.

For those unfamiliar with SB 863, which officially went into effect last month, it calls for around $750 million in additional benefits to be awarded to injured workers and roughly $1.4 billion in savings for the state work comp system. The bill indicates that this is to be accomplished by changing the way in which work comp benefits are calculated and by terminating coverage for those conditions that frequently result in litigation.

Interestingly, the deadline to introduce new bills in both the Assembly and the Senate is the end of the day tomorrow, and there is some speculation among political experts that lawmakers may attempt to introduce a few last minute bills regarding SB 863 and other work-comp related legislation.

Specifically, these experts believe that some lawmakers may attempt to introduce so-called spot bills, which are defined by the California legislature as follows:

"[A] bill [that] has been introduced to assure that a germane vehicle will be available at a later date after the deadline has passed to introduce bills. At that future date, the bill can be amended with more substance included."

In other words, a spot bill would act as a sort of placeholder for any future debate/legislation designed to address any outstanding issues that opponents of SB 863 may have or to remedy any procedural issues that may have arisen since its implementation.

Political experts are also indicating that Assembly Bill (AB 378), which was sponsored by Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) and went into effect in 2012, may also be the subject of a spot bill.

AB 378 places compound drugs (i.e., those drugs specially prepared/customized by pharmacists) under the pharmacy fee schedule and limits physician reimbursement for prescribing these drugs. In essence, it's designed to curtail the use and costs of compound drugs in the state's work comp system.

However, a recent report by the California Workers' Compensation Institute indicated that while compound drugs represented only 2 percent of total California work comp prescriptions in 2012, they also consumed a disproportionately large amount of work comp prescription dollars.

Accordingly, lawmakers may introduce a spot bill to address these rising costs anfd implement the necessary legislative fixes.

Stay tuned for further developments on this important workers' compensation defense law story ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Sources:

Insurance Journal, "Bill deadline in California legislature promises a few insurance issues," Don Jergler, Feb. 20, 2013

Insurance Journal, "Lawmakers greenlight workers' comp overhaul," August 17, 2012 

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