Every employer with more than three employees is required to post a panel of physicians that contains the names and addresses of at least six unassociated doctors or clinics. Your employer must display or “post” at its work site or office a list of these applicable treating physicians for your reference if you are injured on the job. This is sometimes known as the panel of physicians, or posted panel. If this panel is appropriately posted, you must go to one of these company approved providers for your care.
The treating doctor will supervise your treatment and be your liaison with any other approved providers. If your employer does not provide a posted panel, there are several ways in which you may be able to select a physician of your own choosing to treat you.
Not surprisingly, there are often disputes between employers and employees about the validity of the employer’s posted panel. One of the first issues I investigate on a new case has to do with the posted panel.
Changing the Authorized Treating Physician
Even if there is a posted panel, in some cases you may be able to change your treating doctor. If you are not satisfied with your treating doctor, you may select an alternate doctor from the panel’s list of treating doctors. This is called your “one free switch.”
You must notify the employer or insurance network and they may not deny your first request. However, if you are not satisfied with the alternate doctor, the insurance adjuster is not required to allow a second switch. If I am not able to negotiate a second switch, we have the option of asking a State Board Judge to order a “Change in Authorized Treating Physician.”
Medical Care with Physicians Not on the Posted Panel
If you decide to choose your own doctor, you will more than likely be responsible for payment. However, if you have to go to the emergency room in an emergency, your employer will be responsible for payment. You will have to go to a company authorized physician for follow up as soon as the emergency is over.
If there is no posted panel and you are being treated with a health care provider of your own choice, your employer can require you to see a different doctor for another opinion. In other words, your employer can ask for its own Independent Medical Exam and if the doctor they choose reports that you can return to work, your employer and its insurance company will use that report to try to cut off your benefits.
Call an Experienced Lawyer for Panel Disputes
The care and treatment of injured workers by company doctors is probably the most complicated part of the Georgia workers’ compensation system. Often, the company doctor is actually a clinic that handles only workers’ compensation cases for the workers’ compensation insurance company.
This could be fraught with conflicts of interest, as these providers often seek to get injured workers back to full duty status within 21 days, and will sometimes fail to treat injuries with adequate and appropriate care.
I often find that employers make mistakes regarding the proper posting and implementation of the posted panel and an invalid panel can provide you with a significant tactical advantage in your case. Please feel free to call me at 770-351-0801 to discuss any posted panel or medical care issues that are of concern to you.
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