Iowa: Bill to allow employees to choose doctors will raise costs, insurers say
Officials from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America urged lawmakers not to pass Senate File 155, introduced by Sen. Thomas G. Courtney, D-44th District. The legislation, successor to Senate Study Bill 1119, would change the Iowa workers' compensation law by allowing injured employees greater choice of their physician care. The state's current workers' comp law dictates that the employer may choose the treating physician to diagnose and treat occupational injuries and illness.
According to the PCIAA, changing the law could result in injured employees not receiving appropriate care for their workplace injuries. Employees, the group said, could select a provider who may not understand their workplaces or the nature of their tasks in order to establish an effective return-to-work program.
Ann Weber, regional manager and counsel for the PCIAA, said employers and insurers have an incentive to send injured workers to those providers who provide the best care in order to lessen the impact of the injury, the time off from work, and, ultimately, the cost of indemnity benefits.
"S.F. 155 would disrupt the important and critical balance between employees' needs for high quality medical care for injuries occurring in the workplace and employers seeking a predictable and insurable cost structure to accommodate employee needs," Weber said. "The likely impact would be higher medical and employer costs without any discernible benefit to the injured worker."
In addition, Weber said that Iowa employees who have concerns with their care already have the right to bring the matter before the state workers' comp committee.
Business leaders in Iowa have argued that workers who are able to choose their own 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. Proponents of the bill, however, said that current restrictions actually prevent workers from receiving appropriate care.
April 16, 2009
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