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Jose Solorio
By: Jack Duffy
Jose Solorio

Title: California Assembly Member, Chairman of Assembly Insurance Committee
Resume: Solorio served as a Santa Ana City Council member beginning in 2000. He held that post until he was elected to the California Assembly in 2006 and was re-elected in 2008.
Schools: Solorio holds a bachelor’s degree in social ecology from the University of California, Irvine. He earned an MA from Harvard University in public policy.
Awards: Solorio has been named “Legislator of the Year” by the Orange County chapter of the California Landscape Contractors, the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers, and Victims United of California. He has also earned recognition as an Ambassador of Peace from the Violence Prevention Coalition of Orange County and was recognized for “outstanding legislative work” by the California State Sheriffs' Association.
Boards and Commissions: Solorio is chair of the Assembly Committee on Insurance and chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Regional Approaches to Addressing the State's Water Crisis. He also sits on the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, Assembly Committee on Local Government, and Assembly Committee on Transportation.

As chairman of the key workers’ comp committee, Solorio is at the center of some of the testiest workers’ comp debates, including those related to medical treatment and increased benefits for certain classes of injured workers. He has personally authored bills that would extend work injury leaves of absences for public safety officers and that would require that the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California be subject to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act and the California Public Records Act. The son of immigrant farmworkers, Solorio was elected to the Assembly in 2006 and represents central Orange County.

What are the top three issues in California workers’ comp today?  
First, it is clear that permanent disability awards have been drastically reduced, and not only for the injured workers targeted by the 2004 reforms but for those with well-documented injuries that no one is contesting. No one ever argued that these workers should have benefits cut in half. Second, the cost of medical care is rising in all sectors, including workers' compensation. Third, many participants in the system abuse the system for personal financial gain, and this hurts both employers and injured workers. See, for example, my AB 2779, which attempts to rein in the unprecedented and skyrocketing use of (expensive) compounded medications.

Are we headed for a hard market, and if so, when will it come? How long should we expect it to last? What are the repercussions?  
The workers' compensation market goes in cycles just like all other markets, but I am not an expert on this sort of issue.

What is in the State Compensation Insurance Fund’s future? Now that the governor says $1 billion of its assets are to be sold, will it happen, an if it does, what will this mean for the carrier and the market as a whole?  
In the Insurance Committee, we passed a bill that I supported that would have repealed the provisions of law authorizing the sale of assets of SCIF. I know that folks working on the budget want to keep all potential options available – with respect to the budget, there are many bad things that are going to happen, so even ideas that are subject to criticism remain on the table as the lesser of evils. But there are a number of complications, including a lawsuit, that would have to be overcome to realize any value on this issue.

Are medical provider networks a help or a hindrance? How should they be improved?  
Medical provider networks remain popular among employers and insurers, and they are the ones footing the bill, so I would have to say they bring value to the delivery of medical care in the comp system.

How should utilization review be improved?  
The biggest complaint that I hear is that too many cases are unnecessarily sent out for utilization review to doctors who can't be reached by the treating physician. If the treating physician is in the employer's medical provider network, shouldn't they be trusted more?

What needs to be done to improve return-to-work?  
Everybody in the policy-making world agrees that early return-to-work is both a cost-saver and good for the injured worker's long-term prospects. I have a hard time understanding why more employers do not embrace this. We need to figure out appropriate incentives, and have better coordination with various worker protection programs.

What do you see, other than medical, as the next big cost driver?  
The ability of certain players to figure out how to exploit the system for financial gain without adding to the outcomes for injured workers.

Is it realistic to deal for more cost-cutting reforms in exchange for increasing PD benefits?  
In the Legislature, compromises and trade-offs are the most logical way to bring competing interests together.

Where do you see applicant attorneys focusing litigation in the future?  
An applicant's attorney has to fight for his or her client. There will always be rules that deny an injured worker a better recovery, and there will always be lawyers finding creative ways to attack those rules.

Now that Obama’s health care bill is law is there any correlation with workers’ comp? The language changed a bit. Is there a greater connection? Is there anything that has emerged in the law that would change their answer from last time?  
I don't envision workers' compensation medical benefits being a part of national health care reform.

What is the effect of more than $1 billion in payroll being absorbed by the self-insured groups?  
Small employers need options, especially if premiums start to rise. We simply need to make sure that someone is watching complaints with the groups' financial matters.

With the budget constraints, is there any appetite for major reform or simply piecemeal changes to specific challenges?  
Regardless of where the budget is, I see only piecemeal changes for the foreseeable future.

Governor Schwarzenegger signed bills allowing predesignation to continue (SB 186), tweaking utilization review (AB 361), and limiting the denial of benefits (AB 1093). There are also other bills that increase benefits moving through the Legislature, that may or may not get signed (the governor has shown a willingness to do both). What impact could these, if any, have on costs?  
I have voted for bills that increase benefits for safety officers and nurses. I have supported other benefit increases where justified. I am sensitive to costs, but benefits have to be fair and reasonable, and in some cases, they are not.