Invigorating, Inspiring, and Intriguing? No, Just a California Disability Insurance – Voluntary Plan Update

November 20, 2015


On November 16, I attended the meeting of the California Voluntary Plan Advisory Group (VPAG). This is a group that meets twice a year to discuss issues relating to California disability insurance offered pursuant to employer voluntary plans – certainly one of the more invigorating, inspiring, and intriguing aspects of my job! Well, it’s important, anyway…

The meeting was attended by dozens of individuals active in the California disability industry, including employers, vendors, brokers, and 10 representatives from the California Employment Development Department (EDD). A few points were covered that are must-know developments for employers that provide California disability insurance through a voluntary plan. While these are not momentous changes, they do require employers to revise their voluntary plans to comply by the effective dates noted below.

Addition of Physician Assistants (SB 1083). Effective January 1, 2017, physician assistants are included as practitioners qualified to certify a disability for purposes of California disability insurance. Voluntary plans must match this provision by the effective date. Per EDD, this provision has a long lead time before it becomes effective due to the agency’s need to update forms, the website, etc. Voluntary plans can add PAs as qualified practitioners sooner but this will not count as a “greater benefit” required of voluntary plans in the interim.

Change of time between related disability periods (SB 667). California disability insurance provisions require a disabled employee to serve a waiting period of seven consecutive days for each disability benefit period, during which waiting period no disability benefits are paid. Existing law provides that if an individual receives two consecutive periods of disability benefits due to the same or a related cause or condition and separated by not more than 14 days, they are considered as one disability benefit period. Effective July 1, 2016:

  • the period of time between claims for the same or a related cause or condition to be considered one disability benefit period is extended to 60 days; and
  • the 7-day waiting period is waived for an individual who has already served the 7-day waiting period for the initial claim when that person files a subsequent claim for disability benefits for the same or a related condition within 60 days after the initial disability benefit period.

This change will apply to claims filed on or after July 1, 2016. Claims filed prior to that date will continue to be administered according to the 14-day rule.

EDD representatives explained that the motivation for these changes is the recognition that many conditions may cause disability for separate but recurrent periods, such as cancer during chemotherapy treatments occurring over time. This new rule will likely have implications for many other conditions as well, such as mental health, musculoskeletal, and others.Again, employers can implement this change sooner than the effective date but it will not serve as a “greater benefit.”

[Note: I previously wrote about SB 667 and other California leave-related issues on this blog here and here.]

Proposed expansion of Paid Family Leave benefits (AB 908). This Assembly Bill proposed the expansion of PFL benefits both as to the weekly amount of benefits and the duration of benefits (currently 6 weeks). The bill did not pass but the EDD expects to see a similar proposal in 2016.

Do you want to join the VPAG mailing list? Receive notices of the semi-annual meetings with absolutely no cost and no commitment. Just notify me at [email protected] and I will see to it that you are added to the list.

Do you have a voluntary plan for California disability benefits? Matrix Absence Management assists employers with their California voluntary disability insurance plans by staying on top of developments and serving as a third party administrator for employers. Also available in other states with mandated disability insurance and voluntary plans! If you would like to get more information on Matrix services, please call (800) 866-2301.