Bill to Allow Injured Workers to Use Their Own Doctor Debated

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Workers’ compensation has been a hot topic in the Missouri Legislature this session. A bill that would prevent injured workers from holding coworkers personally liable and prohibit workers suffering from workplace-related illnesses from seeking compensation in court is part of the “Fix the Six” agenda proposed by a coalition of business groups. That bill has been hotly debated among lawmakers.

However, it is not the only workers’ compensation-related bill introduced this session. A bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, would give injured workers the right to see their family physician for diagnosis and treatment instead of being forced to use a doctor selected by the employer.

The bill was brought up for debate in the House Insurance Policy Committee on March 14. Rep. Colona said that the change would add integrity to the workers’ compensation system, since a worker’s own doctor would have the worker’s medical history and know if an injury was a pre-existing condition or caused by the worker’s job.

According to an article in the Columbia Missourian, witnesses filled the room during the hearing, with most witnesses opposing the bill. Rep. Bob Nance, R-Excelsior Springs, implied that family physicians would game the system by calling every injury work-related. He also said the change would increase costs to the state workers’ compensation system.

At least one expert witness denied that the bill would increase costs. The president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys said that costs would actually decrease if workers were allowed to choose their physician. He said that Illinois and Tennessee allowed injured workers to use their own doctors, and that both states had lower health care costs as a result. Rep. Colona said that the bill would end the popular perception of “company doctors” refusing to diagnose any injury as work-related and collecting millions of dollars from employers as a reward.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

Source: Columbia Missourian, “Missouri House bill would allow injured workers to choose own doctor,” Audrey Moon, March 14, 2011

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