Cali Workers comp on the mend

By Jill Stewart

Friday, April 29, 2005

JOURNALIST FRIEND of mine recently attended a banquet for hundreds of private-detective agencies, and was fascinated to hear them, one-by-one, introduce themselves. The fascinating part: roughly one-quarter specialized in investigating Californians who claim to be injured on the job.

The fact that California’s private-dick industry spends so much time probing claims of back strains, pain and other injuries is testament to the troubles afflicting the most milked, most disastrous workers’ compensation system in the United States.

Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed sweeping reform, Senate Bill 899 by Republican State Sen. Charles Poochigian of Fresno, to cleanse a mess that, by all accounts, was prompting layoffs and ruining companies that could no longer afford their own workers.

SB899 is a big success. Rates are plunging, insurance companies who fled corrupt California are back and severely injured workers receive more money while the barely injured get less. How incredibly sensible. The biggest winners, besides truly injured workers, are small businesses who drive the California economy. As we heard in legislative testimony, employers saw rates skyrocket 250 percent to 1,000 percent — even if they had no injured workers. That’s what happens when tens of thousands of cheaters, greedy doctors and greedy lawyers bleed the system dry.

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