If you’ve been injured on the job in California, you might have a difficult time getting treatment in a timely manner. A new state audit of the California Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) suggests that some workers wait months or years to get medical evaluations or disability evaluations. Delays in these evaluations mean delays in receiving benefits.
The reason for the delay in evaluations is that there are not enough physicians in California serving as experts for the workers’ compensation system. As a result, injured workers are waiting excessively long periods without getting the diagnosis or disability classification needed.
Division of Workers’ Compensation Audit
Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, a member of the Joint Committee on Legislative Audit, requested the DWC audit. She is hopeful that the audit will highlight problems within the DWC and compel action. The audit showed the following of the DWC:
· They have failed to address a shortage of medical experts. In 2017-2018, there were 2,800 medical evaluators and 100,000 new evaluations requested.
· They “inappropriately” disciplined doctors for purported over-billing issues. The DWC did not reappoint them, which has raised due process concerns.
· They have not ensured that medical evaluator reports adhere to quality standards, including being complete and accurate.
· They have not kept track of how often judges reject medical evaluator reports due to inaccuracy or incompletion.
· The audit notes that the pay schedule for expert doctors, called Qualified Medical Evaluators, has not been increased in 13 years.
What the Future Holds
The DWC has responded to the audit saying that they are already implementing some changes. They will also reportedly consider the recommendations made by the audit.
In the meantime, countless workers are stuck in limbo waiting without treatment or evaluation. The toll on workers and their families is physically, emotionally and financially draining. As Assemblywoman Rubio notes, “It’s affecting real workers, and if something is not being done correctly, they need to fix it.”