California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation

Information Bulletin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT:
April 30, 1996                                        Christine Baker
                                                      (415) 557-1304

Commissions Symposium Focuses National Attention on Challenges in California Workers' Compensation

SAN FRANCISCO - The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation hosted an educational conference entitled "Challenges in California Workers' Compensation: A Symposium", which was very well received by the workers' compensation community.

Approximately 400 participants attended the Symposium, held on April 18 and 19, 1996, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco. The Commission brought together academics, administrators, attorneys, employers, insurers, labor leaders, program managers, public officials, service providers and others from California and throughout the nation to identify, discuss, and suggest alternative solutions to challenges in the California workers' compensation program.

The Commission presented a Who's Who of California workers' compensation along with national and international experts in the field to discuss eight wide-ranging topics of concern. These included representatives from states such as Florida, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin that have recently implemented various changes and reforms in their workers' compensation systems. A comprehensive syllabus, containing material submitted by the Symposium speakers and panelists, was provided to the attendees.

The first topic explored an overview of the challenges to the current California workers' compensation system. Moderated by Commissioner Robert B. Steinberg, various viewpoints were presented by DIR Director Lloyd W. Aubry, Jr., DWC Administrative Director Casey L. Young, CAAA President John Frailing, CWCI President Edward Woodward, David R. Caine of Southern California Edison, Mary E. Garry from Hewlett-Packard, and Commission Chairman Tom Rankin, who represented the California Labor Federation in this discussion.

The impact of the elimination of the minimum rate law was discussed by Professor Terry Thomason of McGill University in Montreal. Commission Chairman Tom Rankin moderated the panel discussion by WCIRB Executive Vice President David Bellusci, and National Council on Compensation Insurance executives Thomas Cleary and Nicholas J. Lannutti.

The topic of health and safety issues in workers' compensation was addressed by former NCCI Assistant Vice President William Kahley, by AFL-CIO Assistant Director of Occupational Safety and Health James N. Ellenberger, and by Barry Hoschek, Region Operations Manager for Liberty Mutual Insurance. Commissioner Gerald O'Hara moderated the panel discussion by DOSH Chief John Howard, DOSH Loss Control Certification Manager William S. Van Cleve, Dispute Resolution Manager Mari Miller from the Oregon Division of Workers' Compensation, and Willie Washington, the Legislative Advocate and Director of Human Resources, Safety and Health and Workers' Compensation of the California Manufacturers Association.

The fourth topic focused on litigation and alternative claims resolution approaches. Speakers included NCCI Senior Economist and Boston University School of Public Health Professor Les Boden, Policy Director Ben Delgado from the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission, Florida Workers' Compensation Director Ann Clayton, Wisconsin Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations Director Gregory Krohm, and Oregon WC Manager Mari Miller. The panel consisting of Florida attorney Rosemary B. Eure, CAAA President John Frailing, Wisconsin attorney Michael Gillick, Oregon attorney associations executive Robert C.A. Moore, and CWCI General Counsel Michael J. McClain, was moderated by Commissioner James J. Hlawek.

The second day of the Symposium started with a moment of silence for the one-year anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing and its victims of workplace violence and continued with a lively discussion of permanent disability and potential alternatives. Discoursing on that topic were Rutgers University Dean John F. Burton, Jr., NCCIs Les Boden, and Bobby Gierisch, Director of Research and Policy Analysis for the Texas House of Representatives. Commissioner Gregory Vach moderated the panel discussion by CCR Executive Director Charles W. Bader, Texas Workers' Compensation Commissioner O.D. Kenemore, Robert B. Hall of the Interwork Institute at the California State University at San Diego, John Frailing, Michael J. McClain, and Ben Delgado.

The objectives and methods of system evaluation were addressed by University of Connecticut Economics Professor Peter Barth, Ben Delgado, and Ann Clayton. Commissioner Leonard McLeod moderated the panel discussion by Joseph E. Markey Association Manager and Legislative Advocate for the California Self-Insurers Association, O.D. Kenemore, and Casey L. Young.

A review of medical benefit cost containment strategies was presented by Dr. Jay S. Himmelstein of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Michigan State University Professor Ed Welch, and Integrated Benefits Institute President Thomas Parry. The panel consisted of SCIMS Executive Vice President Carlyle R. Brakensiek, PacificCares COMPREMIER Medical Director Dr. Henri Cuddihy, IMC Executive Medical Director Dr. Allan MacKenzie, DWC Managed Care Medical Director Dr. Linda Rudolph, Mari Miller, and Commissioner Kristen Schwenkmeyer as moderator.

The final topic addressed alternative benefit delivery systems and the identification of possible applications. Speakers included DWC Industrial Relations Counsel John Plotz, Center to Protect Workers' Rights Director Knut Ringen, Chapman University Associate Professor of Law Ellyn Moscowitz, Ulico Insurance Group Executive Vice President Mary-Lou Misrahy, and James N. Ellenberger. The panel, moderated by Commissioner Robert H. Alvarado, included United Brotherhood of Carpenters WC Policy Coordinator Michael M.X. Buchet, Collins Electrical Company President Eugene Ginie, attorneys Michael Ozurovich, Richard A. Robyn and Victor Van Bourg, and Charles W. Bader.

The presentations revealed that some features of workers' compensation programs in other states may be applicable to California, but those systems cannot be transferred to California without extensive analysis and appropriate modification. Representatives from other states also stressed that they considered an oversight body as essential to facilitate program transitions, new legislation and systems evaluations.

The Commission, created by the workers' compensation reform legislation of 1993, 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.

Further information about the Commission and its activities may be obtained by writing to Christine Baker, Executive Officer, Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation, 30 Van Ness Avenue, Room 2122, San Francisco, California, 94102, by calling (415) 557-1304, or by faxing a request to (415) 557-1385.