Western Occupational & Environmental Medical Association (WOEMA) Ends 2016 California Legislative Session with Strong Results and Sets Course of Action for 2017

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New bills help strengthen the practice of occupational and environmental medicine and set stage for future improvements to the CA Workers’ Compensation System

The Western Occupational & Environmental Medical Association (WOEMA) has concluded one of its strongest legislative advocacy sessions in California in recent years, helping enact five bills in the state benefiting the practice of occupational and environmental medicine (OEM) there.

WOEMA, which represents physicians who practice in California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Hawaii, took strong positions on ten bills affecting OEM during the California Legislature’s 2016 session. Of the six bills it supported actively, five were enacted into law. Of the four bills it actively opposed, none were enacted.

Among the bills enacted, which WOEMA had actively supported, were measures to streamline Utilization Review in workers’ compensation cases (Senate Bill 1160), a measure to create a Cal/OSHA standard for indoor heat exposure (Assembly Bill 1045), and a bill creating a “Physician Wellness” program for the state—aimed at providing help for physicians struggling with substance abuse (Senate Bill 1177).

Among the bills WOEMA successfully opposed were measures that would have thwarted expert medical judgment in apportionment matters and weakened evidence-based approaches to the care of low back pain.

“WOEMA can be happy about its successful legislative track record this year,” said WOEMA President Robert C. Blink MD, MPH, FACOEM. “Our Legislative Committee worked hard to deliver results that are good for patients and help ensure safer, healthier workplaces.”

Toward the end of the legislative session WOEMA released a white paper entitled: “Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement in the California Workers’ Compensation System: A Focus on Utilization Review and Beyond.” The paper focuses squarely on finding ways to prevent delays in treatment by improving the process for providers requesting treatment and agents conducting utilization review. WOEMA lobbyist Don Schinske said it’s possible some of the paper’s suggestions could be incorporated during the rule-making process for Senate Bill 1160, which pertains to utilization review and lien filing. "For example, Senate Bill 1160 requires accreditation for utilization review processes by July 1, 2018 and we think there is ample room within the workers’ compensation system to start adding quality metrics which is where WOEMA is focusing its efforts in the year ahead,” Schinske said.

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About WOEMA: The mission of the Western Occupational and Environmental Medical Association (WOEMA is to promote and protect the health of people at work and in their environment through preventive service, clinical care, research, and evaluation. WOEMA provides educational activities that work to enhance the professional capabilities of occupational and environmental medicine health care providers, and promote their life-long learning. WOEMA members are committed to assuring a safe work place, minimizing worker injury and illness, and serving as leaders, educators, collaborators and facilitators in preventing and resolving marketplace health problems. WOEMA is a regional component of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), and is dedicated to high quality medical care and ethical principles governing the practice of occupational medicine. To learn more, please visit http://www.woema.org.

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Kerry Parker
@westernOEMA
since: 08/2009
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