Fraud Fight Funded

In welcome news for employers, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has received a 10 percent boost in funds – to $6.5 million – to fight workers’ compensation fraud.

It’s part of a statewide 10 percent increase in funds for the 2015-16 fiscal year from the California Department of Insurance specifically allocated to fight workers’ comp fraud.

“These grants will assist district attorneys across the state in uncovering workers’ compensation fraud schemes and prosecuting those who take advantage of the system,” state Insurance Commissioner David Jones said.

Employers get hit with workers’ compensation fraud in several ways, chiefly when a worker claims an injury that didn’t actually happen or exaggerates the scope of an injury. There’s also medical provider fraud, especially billing for treatments never approved or given. Either way, employers ultimately pick up the tab through higher premiums.

But employers, too, could find themselves in prosecutors’ cross-hairs. Some businesses have been caught under-reporting their payrolls to avoid paying the proper premium.

Tobacco Trouble

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Council voted to crack down on enforcement of the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products to minors. Under the new rules, a tobacco retailer’s license can be suspended for 30 days on the first offense and 90 days for the second. Retailers used to get a warning first.

But now, the other shoe could be ready to drop, making the tobacco retailer’s job much tougher. Councilman Paul Koretz on Aug. 21 introduced a motion to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco cigarettes – though not other tobacco products – to 21 from 18. Not only would retailers have to step up their carding and age verification efforts, but, thanks to the toughening of penalties, there would be zero room for error.

Similar legislation is also in the works in Sacramento to raise the legal smoking age to 21 statewide. That proposal passed the Senate last week and awaits action in the Assembly.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

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