PICKING YOUR OWN DOCTOR: What the Employer Does NOT Always Tell You

Posted by Dean Blackaby | Dec 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

The day after Christmas I was shopping at the Macy's store in Helena, Montana.  The hallway from the restroom included a large bulletin board containing several "employee notices" but two in particular caught my eye.  Both were notices to employees who were injured at work.

One notice was generated by Macy's and was in color, displaying large font and the logo of the insurer.  The other was the standard notice provided for posting by Montana's Department of Labor and Industry.

So What's the Problem?

The notice is blatantly misleading in that it suggests (without full disclosure) that the injured worker "may" seek treatment from the providers listed.  It does NOT inform the injured worker that in fact, Montana law gives them a variety of options for this choice.

What's more troubling is that these providers are very significant distances from the store's location (and presumably the employees' homes).  These clinics are located 53.5, 38.9, 42.8 and 77.7 miles away from the store respectively.  They are located in towns with populations (970, 3,008 and 1,659) which are substantially less than Helena (30,000) and require traversing mountain passes or narrow canyons.

More ironic is what is NOT listed - Performance Injury Care - an urgent care clinic which takes workers' compensation and CAN BE SEEN FROM MACY'S FRONT DOOR!!

The result is that injured workers may easily conclude that they can only see these providers which require practically an entire day traveling over a mountain pass or through a canyon.  Or go to the ER and sit all day.

Macy's did post the notice required by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry which does not identify specific providers.  Still, the use of an alternative sign with specifically misleading information is troubling.

In recent years, Montana law has given insurers the right to direct care more frequently.  However, the choice of who an injured worker sees first for treatment still belongs to the WORKER pursuant to section 39-71-1101, MCA.

THE TIP FOR INJURED WORKERS:

The plain language of the statute gives YOU the right to choose your initial treating physician.  The insurer may take it away later but just because your employer displays a multi-color sign for "information" does NOT mean they are giving you correct information.  PICK YOUR OWN DOCTOR!

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About the Author

Dean Blackaby

Attorney representing individuals hurt at work; mediation of workers' compensation disputes; settlement consultant focusing on Medicare Secondary Payer compliance and Medicare set-asides.

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