If you’ve been injured at work, your first priority is to undergo appropriate treatment and recover. In Iowa, an employer has the right and responsibility to provide an injured worker with appropriate medical care and services to treat and rehabilitate work-related injuries. This means your employer chooses your primary care providers and specialists. If you’re unhappy with their choices, however, it may be possible for you to get a new doctor or treating provider—but only in certain circumstances.
A Change May Be Possible If Your Employer Is Delaying Treatment
If your injury requires emergency care, you have the right to seek treatment from any doctor or hospital. Afterward, however, once you have notified your employer of your work-related injury, your employer is obliged to furnish reasonable medical services and supplies and has the right to choose your care. Iowa statute provides that this treatment “must be offered promptly and be reasonably suited to treat the injury without undue inconvenience to the employee.” Your employer cannot postpone assigning you a treatment provider to the detriment of your recovery while it delays evaluation of your claim.
A Change May Be Possible if Your Care Is Inappropriate
If you feel your condition is not improving because your quality of care is subpar, you may be entitled to change your treating physician or specialist. If you are not being treated at an appropriate level, if you are denied the ability to see a specialist, or if your employer-chosen care providers are unreasonably inconvenient (e.g., located very far from your home or unavailable to treat you in a reasonable period of time), you may be able to pursue treatment from a different doctor.
How to Petition for a Change of Provider
If you are not satisfied with the care you are receiving from the employer-chosen physician or disagree with the doctor’s assessment of your injuries, you should first inform your employer or its workers’ comp insurer. You may be assigned a new provider or negotiate another agreement for managing your care. If you cannot reach a satisfactory agreement, however, you can apply to the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner requesting alternate medical care. The WCC will conduct a hearing (either in person or via conference call) to determine the best resolution for your dispute.
Second Opinions and Out-of-Pocket Care
If your employer and the WCC denies your request to change doctors, you may still wish to get a second opinion or independent medical exam (IME). An IME entails visiting a doctor who will perform a one-time examination, review your medical records, and give recommendations on your treatment, work restrictions, and disability rating (limitations). This can help give a more well-rounded picture of your condition to the workers’ comp insurer when it values your workers’ comp settlement and can be useful evidence at a workers’ compensation hearing if benefits are denied.
Finally, if your employer denies compensability of your injuries, or if you disagree with the care and treatment plan its appointed provider has recommended and haven’t been able to reach a compromise, you may pay for additional or different treatment yourself out of pocket.
Injured at Work? Call an Experienced Attorney
If you’re unhappy with your treatment following a work-related injury, an experienced Iowa workers’ comp attorney can help you file an Alternate Medical Care Application and prepare for a hearing with the WCC to explain why a change is necessary. An attorney can also advise you if an IME may be appropriate for your situation and help you find a physician.
Recent amendments to Iowa workers’ compensation laws have changed many aspects of coverage and procedure for injuries occurring on or after July 1, 2017. Navigating these changes and the rest of the workers’ compensation process can be confusing and complicated. If you have suffered a work-related injury, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you get the medical care, benefits, and compensation you deserve. Contact the Platt Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.