Workers' Compensation: General.
The Industrial Insurance Act (Act) provides that a worker who is injured in the course of employment or injured or disabled from an occupational disease is entitled to workers compensation benefits. Benefits may include medical, temporary time-loss, vocational rehabilitation benefits, and permanent disabilities benefits. The Department of Labor and Industries (Department) administers the workers' compensation system.
If a workplace accident occurs and the worker receives treatment from a physician or advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP), the worker must report the accident to the employer and the employer must report it to the Department. The Department must immediately notify the worker of the worker's rights to receive health services from a physician or an ARNP, and must list the types of providers authorized to provide services.
A physician or ARNP who attends an injured worker must inform the worker of his or her rights under the Act and assist the worker in applying for benefits. A physician who attended the worker may file an application on behalf of a worker to the Department using facsimile mail.
The Act specifies that an injured worker is entitled to proper and necessary care from a physician or ARNP of the worker's choice and within the Department's medical provider network. Workers with open claims are required to have ongoing treatment from a provider in the network. That provider is typically referred to as the worker's "attending provider." The worker may receive care from a nonnetwork provider only for an initial office or emergency room visit.
The types of providers who may be attending providers and the duties of attending providers are established in various parts of the Act and Department rules. There is no definition of "attending provider" in the Act; however, the Department's rules define "attending provider" as a person licensed to independently practice one or more of the following professions: medicine and surgery, osteopathic medicine and surgery, chiropractic, naturopathic physician, podiatry, dentistry, optometry, and advanced registered nurse practitioner. Other provider types may provide treatment, but may not be attending providers.
Attending providers are the only providers who may sign accident forms, initial reports, and certify time-loss compensation. Only attending providers who are physicians or chiropractors can perform impairment ratings, which are exams conducted if a worker, after reaching maximum medical improvement, is left with permanent functional limitations.
The Act outlines other duties and obligations of a physician or ARNP who attends the injured worker. For example, the physician or ARNP may:
Workers' Compensation: Mental Health Treatment.
Mental health treatment may be authorized for mental health conditions caused or aggravated by an accepted condition. In addition, for certain workers, there is a presumption that post-traumatic stress disorder is a compensable occupational disease.
To be a licensed psychologist in this state, a person must, among other things, have a doctorate degree, have two years of supervised experience, and successfully complete an examination.
A definition of "attending provider" is created in the Act, and state licensed psychologists are added as attending providers for those claims that are solely for mental health conditions. "Attending provider" means a person who is:
Throughout various statutes in the Act, references to "attending physician or licensed advanced registered nurse practitioner," "physician who attended the worker," and "provider" are replaced with the term "attending provider." This includes provisions regarding attending providers reviewing medical reports, certifying the worker's ability to perform work, providing input regarding participation in vocational rehabilitation, receiving reports on independent medical examinations, and submitting reports to the Department.
The provision specifying that any physician or ARNP who examined or treated the worker may be required to testify in a hearing is broadened to include any health service provider who examined or treated the worker.
The Department's form notifying the injured worker of the right to services is changed to reference the right to receive health services from a provider, rather than only from a physician or ARNP.
The provision allowing physicians to transmit applications to the Department electronically using facsimile is removed and instead, applications for benefits may be transmitted electronically to the Department.
(In support) The bill does not change any benefit eligibility for worker’s compensation. It allows doctoral level psychologists to provide care for workers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It increases access for workers who have mental health claims. The delayed effective date will allow the Department to make changes to the medical provider system so these psychologists can get paid as attending providers. This bill removes significant barriers and will prevent the delay of treatment.
(Opposed) Workers with severe injuries usually need both mental health treatment for coping skills and physical treatment. Psychologists do not have authority to prescribe medications. Collaborative care is needed in these cases and workers will already need to have two providers. This bill does not make those workers better off.
(Other) There is another bill in the system that is addressing the scope of care for psychologists, and the Legislature should act on that bill first. It would be better to wait and see what the scope of care is before allowing psychologists to be attending providers. The bill does not go far enough. Licensed social workers and mental health counselors should also be allowed to treat workers.