Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Simple Way to Reduce Medical Costs

A glaring difference between civil court and the workers comp appeals board is the seeming lack of judicial power of the work comp judges to see to it that the claim is resolved quickly.  For instance, in civil court, the moment a case is filed the parties are given a date to return to court, usually 6 months hence, so the court can inquire if the parties are ready for trial. Why do they do this? To keep litigants from dragging their feet and creating a court back log of cases. If the workers compensation appeals board set status conferences for six months post filing, litigants would  be under pressure to explain to the judge why their case should not be set for trial. After all, if the injured worker still needs treatment the work comp judge can award lifetime medical. In my years of experience, most injured workers opt for a cash settlement rather than keeping future medical rights open. If the parties (and doctors) knew that the judge would be pushing to set the case for trial in 6 months they would have a reason to have their evidence ready to go within that time frame. The way it is now, applicant attorneys are in no position to tell the doctors to write a final report on their clients. This is the norm in civil cases where the " policy limit" defines the amount of the medical billing and provides the attorney with authority to get the doctor to stop treating the injured party.  Applicant attorneys would be more vigilant to obtain their medical evidence quicker when a time limit is looming.  And doctors would have to explain why an extended period of treatment is necessary when the established medical literature is clear that maximum tissue healing occurs within 6 months and most treatment after that time is just palliative. Of course there is always the exception for cases requiring surgery. But for the majority of cases this would work well and result in speedier claim resolution and therefore reduced medical billing. 

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