The legislature last year enacted sweeping changes to the workers’ compensation laws. As of January 1, 2013, any doctor who wants to treat an injured worker in this state must be a part of a Medical Provider Network. After that date, if a doctor is not part of the Department’s Network, they will be unable to treat an injured worker except for the first office visit.
The Provider Network was designed to have healthcare providers use “best practices” for occupational medicine. Who determines what “best practices” are for doctors? The Department of Labor & Industries. If your doctor doesn’t want to be part of the Network as of January 1, 2013, you will be forced to find another doctor to treat you – one that is a part of the Network.
By 2015, the Department is expecting all injured workers who live in Washington State to receive treatment from COHE centers. COHE means Centers of Occupational Health & Education. There are currently four such Centers – Valley Medical in Renton, Harborview in Seattle, St. Luke’s Rehab Institute in Spokane, and The Everett Clinic in Everett. Those physicians are trained to work with the Department’s claims managers and employers to return workers to work with the employer as quickly as possible.
Network doctors will be required to answer certain questions if an injured worker is not back to work within four weeks. Some of the questions include whether there is anger against the employer, if there are multiple L & I claims, whether someone is depressed or anxious, and if there is a history of poor job performance. Doctors will be required to contact the worker’s employer to discuss return to work options.
These changes are in progress. Watch for updates from us about this in the future.