As we head towards the final quarter of the year, much remains uncertain in the ongoing global response to COVID. With claims increasing again due to the Delta variant (more on that below), we are unfortunately not yet at a place where things are even approaching permanent and stationary, to use a well-known phrase from the community. As we contend with ongoing changes to the public health picture administratively and legislatively, we’ll continue to keep you updated on the state of things at least once a month, and sometimes more if there is any breaking news.
To that end, I will be stepping back from authoring the bulletin as I take on other necessary roles and projects with Mullen & Filippi. I’ve very much enjoyed writing it and hope it’s been useful and enjoyable to read. Thank you so much to all of the readers who reached out over the years to contribute stories, provide feedback, and otherwise engage the content. You’ll be in good hands going forward, as Steve Rosendin, an Associate Partner in our San Francisco office, will be taking the feathered quill from me so that Mullen & Filippi can continue to summarize and analyze all the news worth discussing in workers’ compensation each month.
CWCI REPORT: DELTA VARIANT CAUSES JUMP IN COVID-19 INDUSTRIAL CLAIMS
After June 2021 saw a historic low in COVID claims (676 reported and 811 projected claims), July 2021 saw a significant increase to 2,581 claims reported and 3,872 projected, according to the data collected by CWCI. The numbers still pale in comparison to the 43,233 COVID claims in December 2020, but do represent a trend reversal after a steady decline in claims starting in January of 2021. It remains to be seen whether there will be a winter surge again this year, but public health officials continue to assess public and work safety measures as claims increase. The CWCI’s extremely useful interactive application compiling COVID data can be found here: https://www.cwci.org/CV19claims.html
WCAB PROPOSES AMENDMENT TO RULES OF PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE ADDRESSING REMOTE HEARINGS
The WCAB has announced that it will be considering making rules changes and will hold a public hearing on same on 9/24/2021. In its initial statement of reasons dated 8/12/2021, the WCAB opined that the move to remote proceedings and more electronic communication made on an emergency basis in response to the COVID pandemic has increased access to the workers’ compensation system for the parties. The WCAB determined that making some of the changes permanent could be of benefit to the public and to the administration of the workers’ compensation adjudicatory system. The rulemaking amendments are aimed at formalizing the processes for remote hearings, electronic filing, and electronic service and to standardize notice requirements, definitions, and rules relating to appearances. The proposed amendments would create at least 3 new rules (8 CCR 10815-10817) and amend 21 others. The notice of proposed rulemaking, initial statement of reasons, and text of the proposed regulations (as well as information on how to access the public meeting and make comments) can be found here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/wcab/WCABProposedRegulations/2021/WCAB-Rulemaking/Index.htm
DWC PROPOSES COPY SERVICE RATE HIKE FOR 2022
The DWC has also proposed an increase to the maximum flat rate for copy services from $180 to $225, starting in 2022. Under the proposed changes, any bills not paid within 30 days by a claims administrator would also be subject to a 25% increase. The DWC will hold a public hearing on 8/30/2021. The notice of proposed rulemaking, initial statement of reasons, text of regulations (as well as information on how to access the public meeting and make comments) can be found here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/DWCPropRegs/2021/Copy-Service-Price-Schedule/Index.htm
This Bulletin was written by Jim Cotter, Senior Partner in our Oakland office.