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Gov. Jerry Brown authorizes changes to workers' compensation system

September 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Tuesday that authorizes extensive changes to the state's workers' compensation system. Brown believes the changes were long overdue, but the measure has its opponents.

Brown was in San Diego to promote the legislation, which will provide medical care and financial compensation for workers who get sick or injured while on the job. The bill is designed to hold down the costs of the $16 billion system -- costs that were expected to rise 18 percent in January.

Supporters say the changes will result in increased benefits for disabled workers and give employers a break on skyrocketing insurance costs.

"We're saving hundreds of millions of dollars for business. We're getting workers back to work faster. We're getting them the kind of medical care that they need that's appropriate," Brown said. "This is people coming together to make California work better."

The bill is expected to increase benefits to disabled workers by $860 million a year. SB863 was approved by both Democrats and Republicans last month.

"It's extraordinary to see Republicans and Democrats come together to solve a problem before it becomes a crisis," Brown said.

Critics have said it could hurt the most seriously injured by reducing their benefits and limiting care. The governor says that is not true.

"We're going to have independent doctors review these claims, get them done fast and get them done right," Brown said.

The measure also eliminates coverage for workers comp conditions that most often lead to lawsuits. Those include insomnia or mental health. Supporters say it's a win-win for workers and their employers.

"It changes the process of ascertaining total disability to ensure that the determination is made by objective medical criteria, so the final decisions are made by doctors and not made in courtrooms," said California Assembly Speaker John Perez.

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