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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Quality and prompt medical care is essential for those recovering from an injury. The work comp system allows the employer and their insurance company to select the injured workers doctor. While the insurance company likes to refer to this position as “your doctor” when discussing the case with the injured worker, make no mistake about it. This doctor is not “your doctor” but rather your “treating physician”. Often times, these doctors are more loyal to the insurance carrier than the injured worker as shown by their propensity to minimize the injury, issue low ratings and display dismissive attitudes towards the injured workers. Some treating physicians have a decent bedside manner only to find that their medical records are filled with entries designed to compromise or minimize the injured worker's claim. Some “treating physicians” out right ignore the injured worker altogether.

Iowa law provides an expedited procedure for the injured worker to challenge the selection of the doctor the insurance company selects and allows the injured worker to select their own doctor in these circumstances. This is referred to as the “alternate care” rule.

Lipman Law Firm has filed several alternate care petitions lately. One in particular was tried and argued before a Deputy Workers Compensation Commissioner in July. The injured worker, who sustained a knee injury, alleged the treating physician selected by the insurance carrier was dismissive towards him and ignored his condition. When the injured worker questioned the doctor's recommendation for knee surgery, the physician released the injured worker back to full duty. The injured worker testified that the physician then refused to take his telephone calls and schedule a follow up appointment. The injured worker was even required to seek treatment at an emergency department when his leg swelled to the size of a grapefruit - a photo of which was introduced at the hearing. The judge in this case granted the petition for alternate care and allowed the injured worker to select his own doctor who is now treating his injuries. A copy of the alternate medical care decision can be found by clicking here .

The lesson we can take from this is that while the injured worker is not allowed to select his or her initial physician, he has a remedy where the employer and their insurance company’s “directed care” doctor does not provide quality and prompt care. Remember, the “directed care” doctor is your “treating physician” and not “your doctor”.

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