When it comes to workers’ compensation benefits paid out by cities, public safety workers are in a class of their own.
They enjoy what are called presumptive benefits, where specific injuries or illnesses are automatically presumed to be job-related. That includes any cancer contracted within a 10-year period after retiring. Now nurses are looking for similar coveragethrough Assembly Bill 375, introduced in February by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. Nurses would automatically be entitled to workers’ comp for back or neck injuries, blood-borne infectious diseases, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
The proposed law concerns San Francisco’s Human Resources Department, which has advised city officials to oppose it.
“This legislation will significantly increase [Department of Public Health’s] Workers’ Compensation costs, taking general fund money away from other DPH critical services,” the department said in a recent memo.
However, The City’s State Legislation Committee declined to take a position at its April 20 meeting.
The City has been working to reduce labor costs. Mayor Ed Lee is helping to craft a consensus November ballot measure that would have workers give back some pay to help offset skyrocketing retirement costs.
Lee also has called on members of the Police Officers Association to give up their raises next fiscal year.
The recently released five-year financial plan, The City’s first long-term budget planning document, identifies labor costs as one of the biggest factors driving The City’s deficit.
In the last quarter alone, San Francisco spent $1.4 million on insurance claims from public safety workers, mostly for cancer treatment. The powerful California Nurses Association/National Nurses United union is supporting Skinner’s bill.
Its passage “would be a major step forward in protecting nurses, and keeping experienced nurses at the bedside for patients,” the labor group said in a statement.
The California State Association of Counties has come out against the legislation, saying: “Employers need to retain the discretion to accept or challenge workers’ compensation claims. Further, AB 375 could result in increased costs in workers’ compensation for county hospitals at a time when counties are facing budget deficits and reduced funding for program services.”
Workers’ compensation expenses remain a concern for The City’s budget, and cost about $40 million a year.
$1.4 million: Amount spent last quarter on presumptive claims for police and fire
$405,000: Amount DPH paid out last quarter in neck and back injury claims
Source: Department of Human Resources