Missouri House bill would allow injured workers to choose own doctor

Monday, March 14, 2011 | 10:17 p.m. CDT; updated 11:05 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 14, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY – Recipients of workers' compensation would be able to choose their own medical care after an on-the-job accident under a bill heard in a Missouri House committee Monday.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, said the bill would give employees peace of mind and restore more integrity into the workers' compensation system.

However, witnesses filled the room and queued up to speak out against the bill and in the interest of business during a House Insurance Policy Committee hearing. In total, one witness spoke in support of the bill while seven spoke in opposition.

Colona said it is important for employees to see their own primary care physician for an accurate diagnosis, especially when deciding if an injury is a pre-existing condition or one that was caused because of job-related activity.

"Who better to evaluate somebody and say, 'This is a pre-existing condition,' other than your primary care physician," Colona said. "I think this adds a little bit more integrity from a realistic and employee or employer perspective."

Colona said he does not question the motives of company doctors. However, he said the common perception is that company doctors tell workers their injuries are not work-related but are instead from pre-existing conditions.

"The perception is that they (company doctors) are getting millions of dollars in contracts to 'treat' employees," Colona said. "If we remove that incentive and allow employees to see their own doctors, again, the perception of a system that works is going to be a whole lot higher."

Rep. Bob Nance, R-Excelsior Springs, said a personal doctor might diagnose illness or injuries in a way that benefits the worker but is costly for the employers.

"Your own doctor is going to be very generous to making an assumption as to what your problem is," Nance said.

Many, including Nance, are also concerned about increased costs to workers' compensation. Nance said there could be additional expenses, such as whether workers' compensation insurance would cover a mistake made by a personal doctor after the initial treatment.

But the president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, Robert Palmer, said the cost of health care would decrease if employees could choose a physician. He said health care costs less in Illinois and Tennessee, where employees have the option to use their own physician.

No immediate action was taken on the bill.

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Timothy Nickel March 15, 2011 | 1:53 p.m.

It is obvious Rep. Colona (D)has no clue what his bill would actually do to the state of missouri and all he has to do is research the illinois law regarding workcomp and he would see how disasterous it would be for missouri employers.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 15, 2011 | 2:21 p.m.

Decreased health care costs?

(Report Comment)
Jill George March 15, 2011 | 4:25 p.m.

Missouri Work Comp would suffer greatly by letting injured workers use primary care physicians who are NOT familiar with the work comp law. PCP's often keep injured workers off of work unnecessarily which can cause the employer much more money in the long run. Illinois work comp law is set up exactly the same way that Rep. Colona is suggesting. I'm sure exploring the Illinois comp system would immediately change any legislators mind about voting for this bill.

(Report Comment)
Michelle Gresham March 16, 2011 | 8:11 a.m.

You would think twice if you had to choose between losing your home and letting wc deny your case for now and pay 700 a month ins through long term disability if you needed brain surgery because of a car accident that happened on the job or let the wc choose your surgeon for a rare surgery and that could disable you for life. That is the situation they have put me in.

(Report Comment)
K Watson March 21, 2011 | 1:50 p.m.

I have seen both sides of the wc issue - both employee and employer and it is my opinion that there is far more abuse of the system by the employees than there is by the employers. There are too many people out there that think they can get something for nothing by making claims of injuries that are either non existant or much less severe than they make them out to be. I sympathize with Ms. Gresham's situation but unfortunately she is suffering because of people who are greedy and trying to make a DISHONEST buck by taking advantage of our system. My advice to you Ms. Gresham is to seek out a REPUTABLE wc attorney or at least try to get a conference set in front of a wc judge. The judge can order additional treatment/testing by the wc provider to help determine the causation of the injury and whose responsibility it is.

(Report Comment)

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