As we mentioned previously, the Pennsylvania Legislature is planning another attack on injured workers in PA in 2013. This notion has now taken the form of House Bill 1636, which seeks to forever deny injured workers in PA the right to select their own physician.
Under the current provisions of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, if an employer follows the correct procedures and posts a proper list of at least six health care providers (at least three of which must be physicians), then the employer is only responsible for payment of medical treatment with the listed panel providers for the first 90 days of the injury.
If this Bill becomes law, however, an employer may list as few as a single Coordinated Care Organization (CCO) on a panel. Then, the injured worker would have to treat with this single organization, not for the first 90 days, but for the entire duration of the injury. That’s right – the legislature seeks to deny injured workers in PA from ever getting to select their own physicians.
Once limited to those with very few rights, like convicted felons in prison, injured workers would be denied the simple right of choice. Many of these CCOs use the role of a Physician Assistant (PA); this is a person who takes the place of a real doctor, but without the education, training or experience required of a physician. It is, of course, much cheaper for the CCO to pay this individual than a qualified physician. What if an injured worker is only allowed by the CCO to see a PA? Tough luck. What if the CCO takes three months to schedule an appointment? So sorry. What if the PA, or perchance even a doctor, provides care the injured worker feels is not sufficient? Too bad.
That the legislature would take such a dramatic step is puzzling and disturbing. As we have reported, workers’ compensation insurance rates in PA have been decreasing. If the motivation for this legislation is not to address rising insurance costs, what motive could these politicians have for trying to remedy a problem that does not even exist? Could they be trying to fill the pockets of insurance carriers even more? At the expense of their constituents?
We urge everyone to contact their State Senator and Representative, and express concerns over the harsh and unfair effects of House Bill 1636. Injured workers did not ask to be hurt, to be disabled, to have their lives turned upside down by a devastating work injury. When speaking to the legislators, each person should ask that legislator if he or she is limited to a single healthcare facility, regardless of their satisfaction level.