California lawmakers have proposed a number of bills during the current legislative session that would make thousands more employees eligible for post-traumatic stress disorder presumptions.
There are currently at least five legislative proposals that would make nurses, law enforcement employees, first responders, lifeguards and prison employees eligible for presumptions, stating that post-traumatic stress disorder is compensable. The bills reflect lawmakers’ growing concerns that first responders are experiencing PTSD and need mental health treatment.
Here are summaries of the current proposals:
At this point, none of the proposals are close to becoming law. They would have to be approved by both the Assembly and the Senate, and then Gov. Gavin Newsom would have to sign them into law. To be clear, all of these bills have to pass through multiple committee hearings and a number of votes before they would even reach Newsom’s desk.
In prior legislative sessions, Newsom and his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, vetoed similar measures citing fears that such presumptions could dramatically increase costs for employers, third-party administrators and insurance companies. It’s worth noting that many first responders are employed by state and local governmental entities, so if their costs go up, then the taxpayers will ultimately have to foot the bill.
There are also a number of other legislative proposals that could affect the California workers’ compensation system. They include:
Lawmakers are clearly attempting to make more governmental employees eligible for PTSD and other presumptions. That being said, we haven’t seen a push for an omnibus reform bill, which is interesting because lawmakers have previously hinted that major workers’ compensation reforms could lie ahead after Newsom won reelection in 2022.
One reason for that could be the budget deficit fight that landed on Newsom’s desk, which has led politicians from both parties to rush to protect funding for their most important stakeholders and projects.
Regardless of the politician, political climate or political trends, disputes about how to handle a budget deficit cannot be ignored and can eat up a lot of a governor’s time. Once the budget situation is resolved, we could see more interest in workers’ compensation reforms.
John P. Kamin is a workers’ compensation defense attorney and partner at Bradford & Barthel’s Woodland Hills location. He is WorkCompCentral's former legal editor. This entry from Bradford & Barthel's blog appears with permission.
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