Stevens v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd,Annotate this Case
Legislation, effective in 2004 requires that injured workers’ requests for medical treatment be evaluated through a process called utilization review (UR). Under the UR process, a request for treatment cannot be denied by a claims adjustor and must be approved unless a clinician determines that the treatment is medically unnecessary. Workers can challenge decisions denying requested treatment, but employers cannot challenge decisions approving it. The 2004 legislation called for administrative adoption of uniform standards for physicians to use in evaluating treatment. In 2013, additional reforms went into effect, establishing a new procedure, independent medical review (IMR), to resolve workers’ challenges to UR decisions. Stevens challenged the constitutionality of the IMR process, arguing that it violated the state Constitution’s separation of powers clause, its requirements that workers’ compensation decisions be subject to review and the system “accomplish substantial justice,” and principles of due process. The court of appeal rejected those claims, but remanded Stevens’s request for a home health aid. The Legislature has plenary powers over the workers’ compensation system under article XIV, section 4 of the state Constitution. California’s scheme for evaluating workers’ treatment requests is fundamentally fair and affords workers sufficient opportunities to present evidence and be heard.