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Gavin Newsom signed AB 2848, which amended Labor Code Section 4610 to require a study of possible changes to the workers’ compensation utilization review process.

SB 1160 (Mendoza, Chapter 868, Statutes of 2016) created the existing period of study and report by the Director related to the provision of medical treatment. The law required the DWC Administrative Director to contract with an outside independent research organization to evaluate and report on the impact of the provision of medical treatment within the first 30 days after a claim is filed, for claims filed on or after January 1, 2017, until January 1, 2019. The report was to be completed by January 1, 2020.

According to the author of the new law, the “current period of evaluation for the impact of the provision of medical treatment report is not sufficient to capture the effect of workers’ compensation claims filed after January 1, 2019. This bill will help gather more information on the workers’ compensation system by extending the period of review to January 1, 2021, so that the State can better understand workers’ use of medical treatment in the workers compensation system.”

However according to information provided by the author as noted in the March 2022 legislative analysis, this bill was intended to “be amended in the Senate to be a larger workers’ compensation reform package. The amendments will have the goal of raising permanent disability benefits, minimizing delays associated with medical treatment requests, and reducing frictional costs within the workers’ compensation system.”

Those proposed amendments apparently did not take place.

The California Labor Federation, a co-sponsor of the bill, wrote in support of the proposed law that “as written, AB 2848 extends the period of study for a previously mandated report regarding medical treatment within the first 30 days following a workers’ compensation claim. The bill extends the period of evaluation from the existing period of January 1, 2017 – January 1, 2019, to January 1, 2017 – January 1, 2021. The bill will also require the report to be completed by July 1, 2023, as opposed to the previously required completion date of January 1, 2020.”

“By adding two years’ worth of data to what will be considered by this change, AB 2848 will help gather a more comprehensive understanding of the workers’ compensation system. The amended completion date will also better align the expanded data collection with the amount of time necessary to compile and analyze the data.”

There was no opposition to the proposed law in the legislative record.

In summary, a proposed law that was aimed at increasing benefits to injured workers, ended up simply extending the time limits for a study that was specified back in 2016. Otherwise, there are no substantive changes that require the attention of claims administrators.