Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation
Information Bulletin

August 13, 1999 Christine Baker
(415) 703-4220

Commission Issues Report on Treating Physician Role in Workers' Compensation System

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation has issued a report of its study of the role of the treating physician in the workers' compensation system. The study was conducted by the Survey Research Center of the University of California under contract with the Commission.

The 1993 legislative reforms of the workers' compensation system made a number of significant changes to the medical-legal reporting process. The primary treating physician is required to render opinions on all medical issues to determine the injured worker’s eligibility for compensation. When additional medical reports are obtained on a worker’s industrial injury, the findings of the treating physician are presumed to be correct. The Commission undertook this project to evaluate the quality of treating physician reports and the cost-benefit of the presumption of correctness of treating physician reports.

Preliminary results of this study indicate changes to the status of the treating physician made during the 1993 reforms have resulted in medical-legal decisions based on poorer quality reports without apparent cost savings. In addition, there seems to be consensus within the WCAB that the presumption has increased litigation and curtailed the discretion of the Workers’ Compensation Judges to craft reasonable decisions within the range of evidence.

A copy of the report is available at no charge by writing to Christine Baker, Executive Officer, Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation, 455 Golden Gate Avenue, 10th Floor, San Francisco, California 94102, by calling (415) 703-4220, or by faxing a request to (415) 703-4234.

Commission publications are also available through the Internet at the California Department of Industrial Relations' home page at Information about the Commission may be accessed by choosing either ‘Occupational Safety & Health’ or ‘Workers’ Compensation’.

The Commission is charged with overseeing the health and safety and workers' compensation systems in California and recommending administrative or legislative modifications to improve their operation. The Commission was established to conduct a continuing examination of the workers' compensation system and of the state's activities to prevent industrial injuries and occupational diseases and to examine those programs in other states.