Valdez and MPNs
Friday, June 15, 2012 | 600 | 0 | 0 min read
The Court of Appeals decision in Valdez got me thinking further about medical provider networks.
If reports from non-MPN doctors are admissible, will this just accelerate efforts by some attorneys and defendants to "treat on a lien", accelerating the lien problem that plagues California's workers' comp system, particularly in the Los Angeles area?
Clearly Valdez tells us that if all of the MPN doctors are dismissive of my problem, I can contract with a doctor of my choice, get an MRI or lab tests to show that I do in fact have the problem, and have my doctor's report deemed admissible.
Now, if I have the ability to do that, does that eviscerate the process of second and third opinions in the MPN and the little-used MPN independent review process?
If I have a pool of doctors willing and able to treat on a lien, then I might try to "gain medical control."
Part of the problem here which is at the root of so many lien disputes is the issue of when a worker must treat within the MPN in order for the treatment to be paid.
Savvy applicant attorneys have scoured the MPN statute and MPN regulations in order to come up with checklists of dozens of MPN requirements.
If you look hard, in many cases there may be non-compliance with some of these rules.
In some cases the violations may be serious. A selection of doctors is not available within a reasonable distance of the applicant's residence.
Or take the circumstance where the defendant fails to send the MPN doctor list after it is requested. An en banc case, Knight v. UPS, allows applicants to treat outside MPN at defendants expense in such a circumstance.
But what is not clear is how the board really intends to deal with the myriad other circumstances where there may be MPN technicalities that are not met. What are de minimis violations and what are substantive violations of the MPN regs? When is retrospective compliance sufficient to recapture the worker in the MPN? although there may be some Workers' Compensation Appeals Board panel decisions addressing this in certain circumstances, there is a lack of clear bright line rules that parties can rely upon.
And how do these issues about MPN applicability get officially determined?
In many instances, it's "off to the races" with treatment on a lien when the applicant believes there is non-complicance with the MPN rules. And thus a lien dispute issue is generated, an issue that may be sorted out years later.
What would help is if there is a fast track to resolve issues about whether one is required to treat within the MPN in order to have the physician paid.
An early determination resolution process on these issues would probably benefit all concerned. Moreover, it would encourage the board to clarify the standards for allowing treatment outside the MPN at defendant's expense.
Valdez tells us that a worker will always be able to contract for their own treatment. The question with that will be whether the doctor is entitled to be paid. Probably not if there was a valid MPN unless the worker exhausted the MPN process.
And there will always be use of non-MPN doctors where defendants have denied a claim or have admitted certain body parts were injured but denied other body parts alleged. those cases will not be amenable to fast tracking.
But fast tracking more routine MPN-coverage issues would be helpful.
Dealing with this should be at the heart of any future reform discussions.
Julius Young is an attorney with Boxer & Gerson, an applicants' law firm in Oakland. This column was reprinted with his permission from his Workers' Comp Zone blog.