I was invited to speak this past Friday at the California Applicants’ Attorney’s Association (CAAA) Convention in Rancho Mirage, California. Over 1000 workers’ compensation attorneys and professionals were in attendance. This was CAAA’s 50th anniversary, so it was a special opportunity to applaud CAAA’s past accomplishments, as well as set a course for the future.
There was a consensus at the convention that injured workers were not getting the medical treatment they deserve in the California Workers’ Compensation system, and that changes were urgently needed. This isn’t just about injured workers—every working Californian needs to be concerned about what will happen to them if they suffer an injury on the job and are denied the care they need.
Before you can communicate to the public at large about what is wrong with the current system and what can be done about it, it is important to use terminology that the public can understand. It was my privilege to announce CAAA’s new media tool called “Speaking of…,” which can currently be found in the Apple Store. It provides easy-to-understand descriptions of common issues in the California Workers’ Compensation System (see below for details)*. This new tool is a valuable resource to those who are communicating with the press, television, and on social media about the Utilization Review process and other workers’ comp topics.
At the convention, there was a lively discussion about how even routine requests for medical treatment were being routinely denied by Utilization Review (UR) and Independent Medical Review (IMR). These are only “paper reviews”—no actual exam of the patient even occurs! In fact, the audience unanimously confirmed by a show of hands that they have all seen cases where relevant records weren’t sent to the reviewing doctor, yet the treatment was denied anyway.
HOW WORKERS & LAWYERS CAN FIGHT BACK
Clearly, we need change. Injured workers and their families are being permanently harmed by the needless delays caused by out-of-control government bureaucracy. The state economy is also suffering because the longer it takes a worker to heal, the longer employers are tied up. The attendees were encouraged to utilize media platforms to encourage immediate improvement to the system.
One example provided to the audience was to have injured workers write reviews on Yelp about doctors who perform irresponsible Utilization Review decisions.
Bloggers were also encouraged to provide specific Utilization Review and Independent Medical Review decisions that are not following legal requirements. By bringing increased visibility to the issue, both California residents and lawmakers will have a clearer idea of what these processes are costing our workers, our economy, and our state as a whole.
Both the courts and legislature are aware of the crisis and that it needs to be fixed. But that takes time. Meanwhile, we should all be doing our part to make the public aware of this ongoing crisis, offer specific examples of the abuse, and encourage positive changes to the review process as soon as possible.
*CAAA’s language tool can be found in the Apple Store—search for “Speaking Of…California Applicants’ Attorneys Association.”