The House passed legislation (SHB 1402) that says if a workers compensation claim is appealed employers and the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) will not be able to discuss an injured workers condition with the physician if the issues are related in any way to the appeal unless specifically approved to do so by the worker and attorney.
AGC adamantly opposes the legislation and will seek to defeat it in the Senate.
This legislation removes a critical tool in managing workers compensation claims and reverses the foundation of the workers compensation system that ALL parties involved (workers doctors L&I and the employer) are on the same page with the goal of getting the injured worker back to work said AGCs Government Affairs Manager Christine Swanson.
While the bill allows for communications on all issues until the case is at the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals some doctors will limit communications with employers and employer representatives after the initial visit to ensure compliance precisely because they wont really know whether or not a claim is appealed according to AGC Group Retro Director Lauren Gubbe.
To make matters even more confusing doctors and injured workers dont necessarily know the difference between a protest and appeal said Gubbe. So a ‘protest may be inadvertently characterized as an ‘appeal in communications with the doctor effectively cutting off communication between the employer and the doctor and hurting return to work communications and benefits for the worker.
The process may become more litigious and costly as there could be more direct appeals by attorneys bypassing the step of protesting to L&I as this would limit employers (and/or the Departments) communications with the doctor and restrict the information the treating doctor sees in terms of prior and/or conflicting medical information investigations and ultimately driving the decision at the Board.
In an insurance system this is unfortunate as the same information and questions should be addressed by all doctors Gubbe added. Not doing so could actually have a detrimental affect on a persons treatment benefits and overall recovery especially when there are multiple medical conditions involved.
In the end there will inevitably be an increase in timeloss duration and lost wages for injured employees due to delayed return to work processes as some doctors may be reluctant to respond to employers and/or their representatives.
This is unfortunate since many of our injured workers are returned to light duty work with full wages and benefits due to the excellent communication amongst all parties before the claim even gets to the Department Gubbe said.
The vote in the House on SHB is as follows:
Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton Blake Campbell Carlyle Chase Clibborn Cody Conway Darneille Dickerson Dunshee Eddy Ericks Finn Flannigan Goodman Green Haigh Hasegawa Hudgins Hunt Hunter Hurst Jacks Kagi Kenney Kessler Kirby Liias Linville Maxwell McCoy Miloscia Moeller Morris Nelson Ormsby Orwall Pedersen Pettigrew Quall Roberts Rolfes Santos Sells Simpson Springer Sullivan Takko Upthegrove Van De Wege White Williams Wood and Mr. Speaker.
Voting Nay: Representatives Alexander Anderson Angel Armstrong Bailey Chandler Condotta Cox Crouse Dammeier DeBolt Driscoll Ericksen Grant-Herriot Haler Herrera Hinkle Hope Johnson Kelley Klippert Kretz Kristiansen McCune Morrell OBrien Orcutt Parker Pearson Priest Probst Roach Rodne Ross Schmick Seaquist Shea Short Smith Wallace Walsh and Warnick.