Case name: Drew v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, No. 1 CA-IC 12-0044 (Ariz. Ct. App. 03/26/13).
Ruling: The Arizona Court of Appeals held that a worker was not entitled to reimbursement for expenses he incurred traveling to receive out-of-town medical treatment because he did not meet the 24-month deadline for submitting the claim for reimbursement.
What it means:
In Arizona, travel expense reimbursement authorized for injured workers who travel great distances to receive medical treatment is a medical benefit, and requests for reimbursement must be submitted within 24 months.
A worker was injured and diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis in his left hand. The State Compensation Fund agreed to pay for his continued treatment at an out-of-town clinic. The SCF reimbursed the worker for his timely submitted claims for expenses incurred in traveling to his monthly medical appointments. The worker submitted reimbursement requests for travel expenses that he incurred five to six years earlier. The SCF denied the requests, citing the statutory 24-month deadline for submission of medical expense claims. The Arizona Court of Appeals held that the worker was not entitled to reimbursement for his travel expenses.
The worker argued that the statutory 24-month deadline for medical benefits did not apply to his request for reimbursement of travel expenses because travel expenses were not medical benefits. The court said that travel expenses could only be reimbursed when they are "inexorably intertwined" with a worker's receipt of medical benefits. An injured worker's travel expenses are allowed because they are incidental to medical benefits. Therefore, the court found that travel expenses were recoverable as medical benefits, and the 24-month deadline applied to the worker's claim for the expenses.
The worker also argued that the 24-month deadline only applied to "billings" issued by "health care providers." The court disagreed, finding that the statute mentioned billings for medical benefits and was not restricted to billings by health care providers.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
June 24, 2013
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