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Changes in the California workers' compensation laws

Back in September of last year, the governor of California signed legislation aimed at making changes to the workers' compensation laws. Major provisions of Senate Bill (S.B.) 863 went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year. Other changes to the workers' compensation system are taking place slowly through Jan. 1, 2014.

As part of the reform, the "Workers' Compensation in California: A Guidebook for Injured Workers" was updated through March of this year. There are two important changes of which every injured worker needs to be aware. They are the injured worker's right to dispute treatment and the right to pre-designate a doctor.

Depending on the employer's plan, injured workers will be able to dispute treatment options given by one doctor and can switch to another doctor. The procedure will vary based on whether the employer has an MPN, or medical provider network, an HCO, or healthcare organization contract. Some employers don't have either an MPN or an HCO, but there are still provisions for employees to change doctors.

Also, an employee may now designate their personal physician before becoming injured on the job. Certain other professionals can also be pre-designated, again, depending on whether the employer has an HCO, MPN, or nothing at all. For example, if there is an HCO, an employee may also pre-designate a chiropractor and an acupuncturist. Without an HCO, employee's can only pre-designate a medical doctor and an osteopath.

These changes to the California workers' compensation system alone could alter how workers' compensation claims are handled and disposed of by both employees and employers. Having the opportunity to get a second, and in some cases third, opinion could give the employee a greater sense of peace when it comes to his or her treatment. Also, being able to see a doctor that knows the employee's medical history and with whom the patient already has a relationship can make the difference in both treatment and recovery.

Source: hr.blr.com, "California workers' comp: New guidance on changes for injured employees," June 25, 2013

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