California Governor Jerry Brown has always been known to be relatively unpredictable and not one to tow the party line.
And so it is with workers' compensation.
Presented with a host of bills for signature, the Democratic governor vetoed those that many would have thought a liberal would sign.
His veto message to AB 947, that would have have allowed up to 240 weeks of temporary disability benefits for injured workers who are still recovering from surgery when the current 104-week cap is exhausted, may be indicative of some near future for California workers' compensation:
"It is vital that injured workers receive adequate compensation to provide for their needs when they are unable to work due to work-related injuries. Workers' compensation reforms, however, need to be addressed on a broad and balanced scale -- ensuring workers receive adequate and timely benefits and treatment, while also ensuring that the costs of the system are sustainable."
With respect to AB 211, which would have made $6,000 supplemental job displacement vouchers available to injured workers when the treating physician determines the injury is permanent and stationary and there will be some degree of permanent disability, Brown said, "I am however, reluctant to enact piecemeal changes to the workers' compensation system in the absence of more comprehensive reform that addresses both the cost and benefits under the system."
It was a bit curious that Brown vetoed AB 584, which would have limited utilization review to physicians licensed in California.
Brown said in his veto message that limiting utilization review to California-licensed physicians would be an abrupt change and incompatible with how utilization review is conducted by health care service plans.
"I am not convinced that establishing a separate standard for workers' compensation utilization review makes sense," Brown wrote.
Even AB 1155, which would have interposed additional language in the apportionment statute for the purpose of preventing discrimination on the basis of “immutable characteristics” such as race, gender, sexual orientation etc. was vetoed by the Governor.
Brown did sign Assembly Bill 378 which will bring compound drugs under the state's pharmacy fee schedule and Senate Bill 684, which will require insurers to provide written disclosure to California employers if the carrier includes in the employer's policy a provision that requires disputes to be arbitrated or resolved in courts outside of California.
Brown's executive theme appears to be that workers' compensation in California should be treated in its totality, and that provisions catering to special interests won't be allowed in isolation.
In other words, only tit for a tat will be considered under the Brown Administration.