Chiropractors successfully nullify IME law as unconstitutional
Oklahoma State Chiropractic Independent Physicians Assoc. v. The Honorable Mary Fallin, No. 109807 (Okla. 12/20/11).
Ruling: The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that a law requiring independent medical examiners to be licensed medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy was unconstitutional.
What it means: In Oklahoma, laws that exclude physicians other than medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy, including the definition of "qualified independent medical examiner" are unconstitutional.
Summary: Two chiropractors sought to declare portions of a law providing that an independent medical examiner could only be a licensed medical doctor or a licensed doctor of osteopathy to be unconstitutional. Also, a law provided that a claim for permanent partial impairment had to be supported by medical testimony by the treating physician, who was a medical doctor, a doctor of osteopathy, or a qualified independent medical examiner. The chiropractors claimed that they were aggrieved parties because they were excluded from the workers' compensation system. The chiropractors were previously permitted to be independent medical examiners, and their reports were used to support claims for PPD. One chiropractor claimed that the law would adversely affect his practice. The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the laws as unconstitutional.
The court found that the legislature created a "suspect special class" by excluding chiropractors, podiatrists, dentists, and optometrists. The court found no distinctive characteristic to base different treatment between the groups. Therefore, the laws that excluded physicians other than medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy, including the definition of "qualified independent medical examiner" were unconstitutional.
The court opined that the purpose of the workers' compensation law would not be "significantly altered by severing the offending language."
The court also found that one provision changed the standard of proof. The court said that provision must be stricken.
The judges dissented, stating that the implicated class was not the physicians who treat the workers, but the workers and their employers. The dissenting judges also mentioned that chiropractors do not have the same medical training or education as medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
January 26, 2012
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