Iowa: Employers protest bill to allow injured workers to choose their doctors
Senate Study Bill 1119 would prevent an employer from influencing which provider an employee chooses for treatment of a work-related injury. The state's current workers' compensation law dictates that the employer may choose the treating physician, which lobbyists for Iowa businesses say helps reduce costs.
Senate Republicans are worried that the bill, which recently cleared committee with a vote of 6-4, will negatively affect the state's businesses by allowing workers to take time off for minor injuries and drive up costs. Business leaders argued that workers who choose their treating physician for a workplace injury are often away from work longer and could continue to change doctors and order unnecessary tests that would be billed to the employer.
The Ames Chamber of Commerce said that the "proposed legislation does not protect employees, but rather prevents them from getting the best care possible. If passed, Iowans would not receive timely or adequate care for workplace injuries."
It added, "Employers will see uncertainty in insurance markets along with considerable cost increases. Injured employees receive access to specialists and occupational physicians specially trained in work-related injuries, not left to fend for themselves."
Union representatives applauded the bill, saying that employees are cost-conscious and can receive better care by being able to choose their own doctor. Some argued that the current restrictions prevent workers from receiving appropriate care.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said that the concerns of business leaders and workers will be considered. Senate Democrats also have promised to conduct a fiscal study of the effects of the legislation before bringing it to a vote.
March 16, 2009
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