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Tuesday’s California catch-up

Back from vacation and catching up on all the goings-on; some pretty big news out of California re work comp these days…

We’ll start with the highest impact news, and that is the California Supreme Court’s “decision” to let stand a lower court ruling that the IMR process is not unconstitutional (sorry for the double negative) AND that the IMR process does not violate an injured workers’ due process rights.

While there remain constitutional challenges to the IMR process, the Court’s decision to not review the lower court’s ruling implies these other challenges may face a similar fate.

Implication – business as usual for California.  As Court rulings supporting the IMR/UR process continue to pile up, it’s becoming increasingly clear that IMR is not going away.

Serendipitously, CWCI just released its latest analysis of IMR outcomes for 2015 (they work fast out there in Oakland!).  Here’s the need-to-knows:

  • IMR letters increased 19% from 2014 to 2015.
  • Turn-around-time (TAT) is pretty stable – and a lot faster than in 2014
  • UR decisions were upheld by IMR 88.6% of the time – essentially identical to previous results.
  • Drugs were the leading category of service appeals yet again, with opioid scripts topping the list as the drug class most-commonly appealed.  88% of denials were upheld.
  • Compounds accounted for 11% of requests; denials were upheld 98% of the time.
  • 10 physicians accounted for 34,700 IMR decisions – 11.8% of the total

Implication – Many docs are not learning – or are willfully ignoring established precedent for medical necessity/appropriateness.  The 10 docs who average 10 letters for every calendar day are jamming the system with futile requests, knowing full well that 9 out of 10 will be rejected.


As California moves to adopt a formulary next year, we may well see a rise in IMR requests when these unteachable docs continue to prescribe drugs that are inappropriate.

Thanks to Bob Young at CWCI for the heads’ up; CWCI’s take on the Court case is here.

Another item worthy of your attention – Congratulations to Rick Victor PhD; the founder and former Executive Director of WCRI has been named a Senior Fellow at the just-established Sedgwick Institute. Rick is a good friend and one of the most honorable people I know. It is great to see he will stay involved in the industry.



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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates




A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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