Back pain and injury is often considered to be something that just happens as a person ages, something that most people will have to deal with at some point. Obviously, serious back pain can be a major disruption to one’s life and work, and one’s pocketbook as well. Each year, thousands of California workers injure their backs on the job and end up having to go through back surgery.
Overall, the number of California workers that require back surgery is relatively small, but it is an expensive group to care for. Most of these workers end up receiving a spinal implant, but the procedure has been a source of contention among lawmakers over the last decade. Now, after a recent raid on a hospital specializing in the surgery for injured workers, scrutiny is increasing.
The scrutiny is tied to legislation that provided medical providers that perform spinal implant surgery with increased compensation for those surgeries. Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, who was involved in the legislative activity–as well as Assemblyman Tom Calderon–who has apparently been subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney’s office. It isn’t clear why he is to be questioned, but his involvement with the workers’ comp legislation is speculated to be behind it.
Most cases for spinal disorders in California involve workers in construction, manufacturing, mercantile and clerical services, as well as those who work on farms, at restaurants, and hospitals.
The heart of the issue is whether lawmakers passed an unjust incentive in agreeing to pay hospitals extra for the spinal implant surgery, particularly when it isn’t clear whether implants are the best treatment for those with injured spines.
We’ll keep our readers updated on any developments on this issue.
Source: The Fresno Bee, “California lawmakers tussled over payments for spinal implants,” June 14, 2013.