You are entitled to seek medical attention from any health care provider you wish unless your employer or the workers’ compensation insurer has entered into what is called a “Preferred Provider Agreement.” In that case, you may need to make your first appointment at the preferred facility, but you can still see a doctor of your choice for all other appointments. If your employer offers an employer-designated clinic, be sensitive to the fact that you are essentially seeing a “company doctor” whose interests are tied directly to those of your employer. This may lead to issues of objectivity in your diagnosis or treatment, and you always have the legal right to see a doctor of your choice. Once you have chosen a doctor, however, the Department of Industrial Accidents may need to approve any change in doctors within the same field of medicine.
When looking for a doctor, it is important to note that compensation cases are firmly regulated. This means that the amount that doctors can charge is often much less than they would charge under normal circumstances to a private health insurance company or a self-paying patient, and there is the added effort of legal paperwork and sometimes even involvement in the legal proceedings. For these reasons, many doctors limit the number of workers’ compensation cases they will take or refuse to see a patient in a workers’ compensation case altogether. The best place to start is by getting a referral from your primary care physician or from an emergency room. Experienced workers’ compensation attorneys are often the best source of information and can provide a list of doctors willing to see patients with work-related injuries under the Workers’ Compensation Act.