One of the ways unscrupulous businesses cheat is to go without workers’ compensation coverage. Currently, to gain information about an employer’s insurance coverage, one must: (1) be a party to the workers’ compensation claim; (2) pay $8 to fulfill the request (injured workers are not charged); (3) write or fax the WCIRB for the information, and; (4) wait up to 30 days for a response. This inefficient system allows fraud in the workers’ compensation system to continue.
Creation of a searchable database will serve all of the parties typically involved in the workers’ compensation system. It will allow employees to identify their employer’s insurance company and enable them to file an injury claim directly with the insurer. It also will allow a prospective employee to confirm that an employer has coverage before accepting a position. Medical providers, like doctors, will be able to use the database to identify the insurance company of an employer and know where to send their bills for payment. Finally, employers will be able to use the database to confirm that they, in fact, are covered by insurance and are not getting fleeced by insurance brokers.
A searchable online database helps state agencies enforce the requirement that all employers carry workers’ compensation insurance. The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), for example, has no direct access to data detailing which employers are and are not insured. Such an antiquated and outdated system is ineffective in preventing fraud and protecting injured workers.
AB 483 (Buchanan), which was signed into law in 2009, will create a publicly accessible, searchable database of employers and their workers’ compensation carriers to reduce fraud in the system, provide information to injured workers and their medical providers, and help employers dealing with subcontractors to ensure that the company is complying with the law. It will protect against the sharing of confidential information, including policy numbers, or inception or expiration of policy dates. AB 483 will:
- Establish a public database of workers’ compensation coverage;
- Permit a person to determine coverage information for a specified employer on a specified date;
- Permit a query by employer Federal Identification Number, name, or address;
- Provide the name and contact information for the employer’s insurer;
- Be accessible free of charge;
- Be updated to reflect policy information as soon as feasible following submission of new information by insurers;
- Include a disclaimer stating that search results may not reflect recent changes or that failure of an employer name to appear on the database does not mean that the employer does not have coverage;
- Contain a link to the Department of Industrial Relations’ website in order to identify self-insured employers.
- Guidebook for California’s Injured Workers. This guide helps California workers with job injuries understand their legal rights and responsibilities, and outlines the steps to take to request workers’ compensation benefits.
- California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The state’s Department of Industrial Relations provides information on injury prevention, public safety, filing a complaint and more.
- WORKSAFE! a broad coalition of Californians in favor of worker occupational safety and health protection.
- AFL-CIO Safety and Health at Work. Click here for the latest news and resources on federal health and safety issues..
- Workers’ Compensation Reform: Employers Save, Insurers Profit and Workers Suffer. A white paper by the California Labor Federation.