News Intelligence Analysis
Governor Arnold Punches Workers
Compensation into a Limp Blob
By Katherine Yurica
Californians always knew that Arnold Schwarzenegger
had muscles. They just hadnt anticipated where the Governor
was going to use his power. No one can forget how he shouted,
Im going to be the peoples governor.
Thats why so many good, honest workers voted for him. As
it turns out, before his election Arnold promised, I will
take steps to help
injured workers to get the care they need, while ending the
incentives and loopholes that encourage unscrupulous lawyers
and providers to game the system.
Who wouldnt want to attack the unscrupulous
and the providers that game the system?
Alas, the new Governors proposed Workmens Compensation
bill does just the opposite: it stomps on the workers making
it almost impossible for them to get compensation for workplace
injuries and adequate medical care, and hands over the keys to
Californias bank vault to the insurers.
You see, the unscrupulous according
to Arnold arent the powerful moneyed interests and their
teams of big corporate lawyers. And those gaming the system
arent those companies that force prices up through artificial
means. No. In his own words, Arnold told us, The only people
who are sure to benefit
the unscrupulous medical providers [read that to mean your
doctor], lawyers [your lawyer], and un-entitled claimants [read
that as you and your co-workers if you get injured on the job]
who have learned to game the system at the expense of Californias
employees and employers.
Governor Schwarzenegger still believes what
he said before his election. The true cause of runaway costs
is you and your co-workers. He says California workers are the
cause of runaway costs. How? Arnold answered in his
clipped Teutonic English, Excessive
utilization of medical care. It means folks in
California seek medical help too often. The peoples
governor said: Over-utilization
of medical services, not higher prices, is driving the workers
compensation medical cost crisis. People in other
states, the new governor said have the decency not to go to doctors
as often in order to get well!
Compare the Governors approach to
Californias Constitution, (Article 14, § 4) which
grants every injured worker full medical treatment to be cured
and relieved from on-the-job injuries.
Dr. Governor believes California workers
have too great an incidence of partial
permanent disability. His solution is to redefine permanent
disability. He also proposes to allow employers to force
alternative dispute resolution systems upon injured workers that
deny the right to counsel for employees who lack collective bargaining
So in order to help the injured
workers, Governor Schwarzenegger rolled out his new psychological
jump-through-the-hoops-torture test to discourage injured workers
from even applying for Workmens Compensation.
Heres the proof of a fabulous twisted
mind in action: Existing California law provides that when payment
has been unreasonably delayed or refused to a worker, the full
amount of the order, decision, or award shall be increased by
ten percent plus attorneys fees. But the crafty Governors
bill would repeal that section and instead would encourage unreasonable
delays and refusals of compensation by allowing miniscule penalties
(reducing the maximum
penalty for unreasonably delaying or refusing payment to
a worker to any percentage point or fraction thereof, up to a
maximum of 15% or to a mere $500 penalty, whichever is greater
with no attorney fees provided.) Oh, he has his vays.
The peoples Governor also wants to
eliminate civil remedies
for employment discrimination and protections against retaliation
for filing a workers compensation claim. He also wants
to repeal safety programs aimed at reducing injuries and cutting
Herr Doktor Governors bill eliminates
any ability for a worker to
select or change his or her physician. The injured worker
is left at the mercy of the company doctor.
Herr Doktor Arnold proposes to deny the
injured worker due process and a hearing under oath within thirty
days to resolve medical disputes; instead Herr Doktor creates
Medical Review process using anonymous providers dependent
on carriers and employers for their fees and who would never
see or examine the injured worker.
It would be unfair to mention how Herr Governor
promised never to take money from special interests
at this point. Wouldnt it? According to Arnold the
$100,000 gift donation handed him in the early part of November,
2003 from the American International Group, Inc., (a major insurance
firm that writes workers compensation policies in California),
had nothing to do with the Governors policy decision to
assist insurers to even higher profits. But Mr. Schwarzenegger
had already passionately pleaded for the plight of the hapless
insurers even before the election. He said, Insurers
and employers who self-insure in California are being hit hard
by runaway costs
California insurers are
suffering huge losses, and some have even gone out of business.
Tender hearts all over California skewed
their feelings into knots over the dreadful state of huge corporate
entities and voted for him. But some grew wiser faster than most
of us and said: Mr. Governor, when we follow the
money, and look at the latest third quarter 2003 reported figures,
the bottom line reveals that insurers have been enjoying huge profits
not huge losses:
Zenith Insurance Co.
200% increase in profits
American Financial Group
600% increase in profits
The Chubb Corporation
330% increase in net income
St. Paul Companies
225% increase in profits
The Everest Re Group
89.9% increase in net income
American Insurance Group
27% increase in profits
Alas, any new governor can make a teeny
tiny little ole mistake like that.
In 1712 Sir Richard Blackmore devoted a
passage of his philosophical poem on Creation to the kind of
treachery being examined today. Ive paraphrased itjust
a miteIm sure he wont mind:
Schwarzenegger next, to hide his black design,
And to his side the unwary to incline,
For the People his banner displays,
Declares for Workers Compensation
while he that Workers Compensation betrays:
For whom hes pleased such evidence
As saves the Name, while it subverts the
Katherine Yurica was educated at East Los
Angeles College, U.S.C. and the USC school of law. She worked
as a consultant for Los Angeles County and as a news correspondent
for Christianity Today plus as a freelance investigative
reporter. She is the author of three books. She is also the publisher
of the Yurica Report.
to the editor
go to the "California Under
the GOP" page.
related articles on the
which destroys workers'
Medicare protection, go to
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