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AB 1542: Bill and Legislative Analysis
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Original AB 1542 FACT SHEET - May 2015

BACKGROUND

Since 1993, the State of California has appointed neuropsychologists to serve as Qualified Medical Evaluators (QMEs) in workers' compensation cases, Neuropsychologists are licensed psychologists who have taken additional training enabling them to specialize in the assessment and evaluation of traumatic brain injuries. They function in a medical area significantly different than general psychologists.

The Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) recently commenced the regulatory process to revise the QME regulations. According to the DWC's Initial Statement of Reasons, they propose to abolish the specialty designation for QME Neuropsychologists because "the California Medical Board does not recognize Clinical Neuropsychology as a specialty." While this explanation is immaterial, it is technically correct given a strict reading of Labor Code.

 

Section 139.2. The proposal seeks to lump neuropsychologists into the same data population as psychologists.

ISSUE

Since there is a significant difference between the services provided by neuropsychologists as compared to psychologists, the California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery (CSIMS) and the California Psychological Association (CPS) feel it is critical to permit the continued distinction between these two specialties.

Merging them into one category of "Psychologist" will be detrimental to injured workers and their employers/ insurers. It will also increase the workload of the DWC due to increased requests for QME panel consults.

When an injured worker suffers a traumatic brain injury, he/she needs to be evaluated by a neuropsychologist, not a psychologist. If the DWC abolishes the QME designation for neuropsychologists and folds them into the general category of "psychologist," there is a high probability that the random QME panel of three psychologists might not include any neuropsychologists at all. Conversely, if the injured worker needs to be evaluated by a psychologist, he/she may be given a random panel that only contains neuropsychologists.

This is not a good outcome for injured workers.

WHAT THIS BILL WOULD DO

The bill would provide that a person who is certified in neuropsychology by specified boards or organizations and was appointed as a qualified medical evaluator in neuropsychology before January I, 2015, or who is a clinical Psychologist licensed to practice in the state, holds a doctoral degree in psychology, and has at least 2 years of specified experience and training, may be appointed by the administrative director as a qualified medical evaluator in neuropsychology.



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