Workers injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. But what many don’t realize when they begin the process is that only certain doctors are authorized to treat them for their work injuries.
Part of the reason for this is that workers’ compensation insurance has to guarantee timely and reliable medical care available for injured workers. Under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act, medical treatment is prescribed by an authorized treating physician.
We understand that this sounds complicated (it is). Since clients often ask our workers’ compensation lawyers about the same issues, we put together a list of these frequently asked questions and provided brief yet clear answers on each topic.
If you would like to speak to a Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer about your injury, contact us online now or call (770) 934-8000.
Does the workers’ compensation doctor work for the insurance company?
Authorized treating physicians are pre-screened by the insurers in order to make it on their “panel of physicians.” These doctors are paid by the insurance company to treat injured workers.
Many times, the panel features both good and bad doctors. Good doctors will treat their patients the same regardless of which insurance company is paying for the medical care. The bad doctors will limit their care and push the injured worker through the system, thereby saving the workers’ compensation insurers money in the long run.
What is the panel of physicians?
The panel is comprised of six doctors, each chosen according to the workers’ compensation laws. From this list of doctors, injured workers can choose one to be their authorized treating physician.
Our law firm is quite familiar with these doctors, so we always try to pick the very best ones for our clients to see. Sometimes, though, the choice is limited based on availability.
How do I find out which doctors are on the panel?
The employer is required to post the panel of doctors in prominent places upon the business premises, usually in a break room or near a time clock.
The employer is also responsible for making sure the employee understands what the panel is, that they have the right to choose a doctor from the panel, and assisting the employee with contacting the physicians on the panel.
Once the employee selects the physician to provide treatment, this physician becomes their authorized treating physician.
I can’t find the panel of physicians. What are my options?
If an employer fails to post a panel of physicians on the job site, the employee is free to go with a doctor of their own choosing to provide treatment, and the employer/insurer has to pay for it. The physician selected becomes the authorized treating physician.
What happens if I need emergency medical attention?
A visit to the emergency room is covered by workers’ compensation as long as the medical emergency is occurring. Once the emergency is over, the employee must comply with the panel of physician requirements.
Why won’t the workers’ compensation doctors listen to me?
It can feel difficult to get a doctor’s attention if they seem in a rush or busy. However, you must be an advocate for yourself. Tell the doctor every time you are in their office everything that is bothering you and causing discomfort.
If they are unconcerned about any symptoms or issues, ask them to write that down in your medical notes. Some doctors take a patient more seriously if they are confronted about their dismissive attitude.
How can I get a new workers’ compensation doctor?
Maybe you don’t like the authorized physician treating you. They may act condescending or dismissive. If there is a lack of trust and respect in the patient-doctor relationship, it is most likely in the injured worker’s best interest to find a new doctor.
There are two ways to make this change:
- Notifying the employer/insurer, and they agree to the change.
- Filing a “Motion to Change Physicians” with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
After a motion to change physicians is filed by either the injured worker or the employer/insurer, the board will consider several factors (such as accessibility, need for specialized care, prior requests, etc.) when it considers granting or rejecting the request.
I feel depressed, but my workers’ compensation doctor says I should talk to my primary care physician instead. Is this true?
Understandably, many people suffer depression after a work injury. They are unable to work and aren’t generating any income. For many, their self-esteem has become tied to their jobs and productivity.
Make sure the workers’ compensation doctor knows that your depression didn’t exist before the work accident. Explain that your feelings of depression are directly linked to the accident.
If the authorized treating physician writes you a referral for counseling, the sessions with the therapist can be submitted to the insurer to be covered. Remember, workers’ compensation insurance is responsible for any and all recommended treatment related to a work injury, and that includes treatment for depression.
Get Answers to Your Workers’ Compensation Questions
Our Georgia workers’ compensation attorneys know the law inside and out. We understand how complicated the process can be and how to avoid bureaucratic pitfalls that can derail a work injury claim.
For help getting the medical care you need, contact the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates. Don’t let your job or the insurance company get away with denying you access to the medical care you are entitled to receive.
You deserve a chance to fully recover from your injuries and return to work when you are ready.