According to a new study released by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, new regulatory changes passed in California are expected to affect both the prices and the utilization of medical care for injured workers by most types of providers. The study was intended to provide a baseline for monitoring the effect of the 2012 reforms in California resulting from SB 863.
The law included changes in a number of areas: permanent disability; supplemental job displacement vouchers; the creation of a "Return to Work Fund"; independent medical review; improvement in medical provider networks; independent bill review; changes in liens; qualified and agreed medical evaluators; and self-insured employers.
The institute's study said that the possible impact from the measure could include an increase in prices paid for primary care and a decrease in prices paid for specialty services, as well as a decrease in payments of ambulatory care services, changes in utilization of different types of services, lower medical legal expenses, faster dispute resolution and an increase in the timeliness of medical care.
The study put a particular emphasis in looking at how California compared with other study states prior to the measure's passage. What it found was that medical payments per claim in the state were fairly typical and covered certain offsetting factors. In addition, prices paid were found to be lower than in the typical study state, while utilization of nonhospital services was higher.
Hospital outpatient/ambulatory surgical center costs in California were found to be lower than in many study states. Chiropractic care and services from physical therapists were also more common.
Source: Claims Journal, "California Regulatory Changes Expected To Affect Workers' Comp Costs," April 5, 2013