Watsonville Law Center Impacting Worker Medical Care Statewide

A new booklet about how to provide medical care to low-wage workers is being distributed to community health clinics. It's modeled after local practices.

A guide create, in part, from work done by the Watsonville Law Center, has been released and is being promoted by the Department of Industrial Relations, the Division of Workers' Compensation and U.C. Berkeley's Labor Occupational Health Program.

The new booklet, Providing Medical Services to Low-Wage Workers with Job Injuries is aimed at California community health centers. It's designed to encourage community health centers to implement financially sustainable workers' compensation programs that ensure low wage workers with illegally uninsured employers have access to medical treatment under workers' compensation, PR Newswire reported.

"Our goal is to help overcome hurdles faced by injured workers seeking benefits when their employers are illegally uninsured," said DIR Director Christine Baker. "We are proud to partner with workers' advocates who recognize the importance of helping individuals with limited resources get the medical and disability benefits they deserve."

More than 5 million individuals make up the low-wage and underground-economy worker population in California, many of whom sustain injuries and illnesses because of the hazardous nature of their jobs. As a result, nearly two-thirds of all reports of serious work-related injuries and illnesses come from this population. Although employers are required to be insured for occupational injuries and illnesses, workers' compensation is often inaccessible to low-wage workers. Access to care through the workers' compensation system is important because the worker has access to future medical treatment for the injury or illness, and essential benefits that support the worker to rehabilitate and return to work.

"This effort is an on-going statewide collaborative of government and non-profit agencies committed to eliminating unique barriers faced by agricultural and other low-wage immigrant workers in the workers' compensation system," said Executive Director Dori Rose Inda. "The overall goal of the collaboration is to improve workers' access to workers' compensation benefits through the development of effective statewide policies."

In May, , which used Pajaro Valley clinics as a testing pool for some of the practices recommended.

It is a crime for an employer to not carry workers' compensation insurance or have permission to be self-insured in California. Illegally uninsured employers are subject to prosecution, imprisonment, and penalties.

Information for employers, including answers to frequently asked questions such as, "Do I need to have workers' compensation insurance?" can be found on the DWC Web site.

Employees with work-related questions or complaints can call the California Workers' Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757.


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