Lawmakers consider workers’ comp in health-care discussions

A man goes to India on an extended business trip and catches tuberculosis, a chronic disease demanding months of expensive treatment. Quick–is he covered by workers’ comp?

According to attorney Mark Vickness, this really happened recently, and there was no quick answer. A judge eventually ruled that he was covered. But this is the kind of question that can lead to delays in care and a sick person shuttling between two disjointed health-care systems.

The situation could be very different in a few years, as legislators and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have begun to question the separate delivery of health care by workers’ compensation and the regular health-care system.

The idea of integrating care appears in SB 840, the 61-page health-care bill from Senator Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles. The bill would create Universal Healthcare Commission. One of this body’s tasks would be to investigate ways to coordinate these two health-care systems.

Kuehl said such a system could help reduce duplicated coverage and unnecessary procedures. It also could help slash the $20 billion that insurance companies and health-care providers spend nationwide each year fighting over whether to cover claims.

“It makes a lot of sense to have the ability to choose your provider and go to them, however you were injured,” Kuehl said.

While Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 840 last year, a directive to study the idea also appears in his own health-care proposal. This plan has yet to be introduced as legislation.

A variation of the idea also appears in the SB 48, the health-care plan introduced by Senate Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland. While neither mentions the idea in their current form, Assembly Speaker Fabian N

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