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This week state Senator Jim Beall introduced S.B. 626  – a bill that would roll back many of the provisions of newly enacted S.B. 863.

Theoretically, last year’s S.B. 863 was a “balanced” bill that sought to both reduce costs and increased benefits. The balanced approach was forced by Governor Brown who vetoed one sided legislation the previous year that sought to unwind portions of Governor schwarzenegger’s S.B. 899.  His veto messages asked the legislature to pass a balanced measure that had some benefit for California employers. Thus, the political climate, up until this year, was a state legislature that clearly wanted to grow the benefits of the Worker’s Compensation system, balanced by a Governor who considers the impact of increasing a hostile business climate.

However, the November election may have changed that political climate. The Democratic Party has controlled the California Legislature for a nearly unbroken stretch of 42 years. Yet control goes only so far: it takes two-thirds of the Legislature to enact a host of important legislation in this state, meaning that even the diminished Republican Party has been able to easily frustrate Democratic ambitions. But with a swell of electoral victories in November, the Democratic Party has now crossed that boundary and controls two-thirds of both the Senate and the Assembly, giving it the kind of unfettered power that no party has had here for 80 years. With the exception of a few brief lapses caused by vacancies, Democrats could hold a supermajority at least through the end of the decade. A supermajority can override the Governor’s veto, and indeed can even call a constitutional convention and re-write the California constitution placing the new version before the voters for final approval.

With the new political climate in mind, S.B. 626 may have a fighting chance for passage this legislative session. Here are the key provisions.

S.B. 863 prohibits a chiropractor from being the treating physician after the employee has received the maximum number of chiropractic visits. S.B. 626 would delete that provision and would instead provide that a chiropractor may remain the patient’s primary treating physician even if additional treatment has been denied as long as the he complies with specified reporting requirements of workers’ compensation law..

Currently, physicians who perform utilization review or the new IMR process need not be licensed in California. S.B. 626 would revise these provisions to require that medical treatment utilization reviews and independent medical reviews be conducted by physicians or medical professionals who hold the same California license as the requesting physician. The bill would delete the requirement that independent medical review organization keep the names of the reviewers confidential in all communications with entities or individuals outside the independent medical review organization.

S.B. 863 prohibits a workers’ compensation administrative law judge, the appeals board, or any higher court from making a determination of medical necessity contrary to the determination of the independent medical review organization.S.B. 626 would delete that provision and allow disputed medical issues to proceed to litigation after the IMR process.

And S.B. 863 limited the AMA Guide add-ons for psychiatric injury, sleep disorder or sexual dysfunction in cases that were initially a physical injury. S.B. 626 would delete the prohibition on increases in impairment ratings for psychiatric disorder.

The destiny of S.B. 626 will not be known until at least August, the end of the current legislative session. Nonetheless, there is little if any political headwind in the way. It is not inconceivable that S.B. 626 in some form will become law.