40% of CA Utilization Review Providers Non-Compliant with New Law

I was stunned to read in a recent WorkCompCentral article (subscription required) that only 38 of the 63 firms currently providing workers’ compensation utilization review (UR) services in California are URAC accredited. Per California Senate Bill 1160, the deadline for mandatory accreditation was July 1, 2018. WorkCompCentral’s reported figures on July 9 mean that 40 percent of organizations performing UR services for California work comp insurers are in clear violation of state law.

Admittedly, the law only recently went into effect. But given that SB 1160 passed in October 2016, organizations have had nearly two years to prepare. So why are so many still not compliant?

My answer is twofold: effort and expense. Rising first navigated the complex path to URAC accreditation in 2008 and has undergone three reaccreditations since. We know firsthand how time consuming, resource intensive, and financially demanding the process is for an organization. It is an enterprise-wide commitment. In addition to daily processes the UR team must document and follow, our Technology, Compliance, Talent Management, and Marketing departments must also enact and adhere to detailed protocols. The cross-departmental efforts and sophisticated infrastructure needed to establish and maintain URAC accreditation, coupled with the financial investment necessary to meet the accreditation’s requirements, is likely why so few California providers have pursued it.

What remains to be seen is how long these non-accredited providers can hold out. According to the WorkCompCentral article, the California Division of Workers’ Compensation is drafting new regulations which may include penalties to ensure organizations comply with the law. But no amount of penalties can expedite the URAC accreditation process, which takes 10 to 12 months with no guarantee of success.

I urge companies currently processing California work comp claims to verify their UR vendor’s accreditation status. For those who discover their vendor is among the non-compliant 40 percent, now is the time to consider an alternate solution. With the lengthy accreditation timeframe and the likelihood of increasing provider disputes over the validity of UR determinations by non-accredited UR organizations, it’s wise to be proactive.