A Publication of WTVP

“My employees can go wherever they want and I can’t do anything about it.”

I hear this too often from companies saying they cannot send their employees to a medical provider of their choosing when one of their employees is injured on the job. I speak with employers daily about their occupational health and workers’ compensation needs. Employers typically feel helpless when their employees are injured and the employer is left in the dark regarding their care. Hopefully after reading this article, that train of thought and feeling of helplessness will end!

Employers can refer their employees to a place of the employer’s choice for an examination. While there is considerable discussion and debate on this, depending on which side of the fence you’re on, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act states:

An employee entitled to receive disability payments shall be required, if requested by the employer, to submit himself, at the expense of the employer, for examination to a duly qualified medical practitioner or surgeon selected by the employer, at any time and place reasonably convenient for the employee, either within or without the State of Illinois, for the purpose of determining the nature, extent and probable duration of the injury received by the employee, and for the purpose of ascertaining the amount of compensation which may be due the employee from time to time for disability according to the provisions of this Act.

The key word here is “examined.” Employees do have the right to choose whether or not they want to continue being treated by the employer’s examining provider. Employers cannot tell their employees where they can and cannot get treatment—it is up to the employee to make that choice. The reality is that most employees want good medical care and will seek medical attention where the employer wants them to go. Also, it is in the employer’s best interest to find a provider who provides the best care for an injured employee. Inadequate medical care does not equal fewer workers’ comp costs. In fact, just the opposite is true.

How can employers make sure a provider of their choosing examines their employee? First, find a qualified provider for comp care. Second, educate employees about the provider and his or her qualifications, and even introduce the provider to employees. After this, if an employee continues to refuse to be examined by a physician of the employer’s choice, according to the law, the employer can stop paying medical fees from the date of refusal until he or she complies:

If the employee refuses to submit himself to examination or unnecessarily obstructs the same, his right to compensation payments shall be temporarily suspended until such examination shall have taken place, and no compensation shall be payable under this Act for such period.

Employers must know that in order to manage their workers’ compensation costs, they have to take control of their own situation. Choosing a medical provider who specializes in occupational health, practices evidence-based medicine, and understands the rules and regulations governing occupational health (e.g., the ADA, OSHA and Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act), will save companies thousands of dollars annually.

Many will not be surprised to know that the Peoria area was once considered the most highly-litigated area per capita for workers’ compensation in Illinois. Yes, there are those people who abuse the system and attempt to supplement their income through workers’ comp. For example, I recently spoke with a local HR manager who has an employee looking for his fourth surgery in three years, and that employee received $20,000 to $30,000 in each of the previous cases.

Now that employers have a better understanding of their rights, they can take charge of their occupational health programs and work with their employee base to cultivate trust and establish expectations when injuries happen. iBi