IR # 96-22
Friday, May 24, 1996

Christine Baker
(415) 557-1304

Commission Contracts for Landmark Study of
Workers' Compensation Permanent Disability

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation voted unanimously to contract with the independent research organization RAND for a comprehensive study of the California Workers' Compensation permanent disability program.

The delivery of permanent disability benefits to injured workers in the California workers' compensation system has raised concerns about efficiency, fairness, adequacy, and consistency. Although legislative and regulatory reforms implemented since 1989 have addressed many of these concerns, various parties to the California system agree that additional work remains.

According to some, the California Permanent Disability Rating Schedule is more complex than systems used to rate permanent disability in other jurisdictions. Others contend that a single medical evaluation report rated by more than one state disability evaluator may yield significantly different permanent disability ratings. Some question the adequacy of benefits, pointing out that maximum weekly benefits for most workers remain unchanged by these reforms and are among the lowest weekly benefits in the entire nation.

The study will evaluate how workers' compensation permanent disability benefits are currently determined and delivered in the California workers' compensation system. It will examine the extent to which the current system meets the goals and objectives set forth in the constitutional mandate and whether the system can be improved to better meet those goals.

RAND was selected to perform this study because it received the highest score in the state's competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) process. The eight study proposals received were evaluated by the Commission's Executive Officer, the Administrative Director of the California Division of Workers' Compensation, and the Executive Medical Director of the California Industrial Medical Council, pursuant to criteria specified in the Commission's RFP. At its May 23, 1996, meeting in Los Angeles, the Commission voted unanimously to contract with RAND for $486,045 to perform the permanent disability study. The project will run for about one year and a final report is expected in July 1997.

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, Suite 2122, San Francisco, California 94102; or by calling (415) 557-1304; or by faxing a request to (415) 557-1385. Information is also available through the Department of Industrial Relations' Internet servers' Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation home page. The address is