Law Offices of Jon R. Hawk
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Jon R.Hawk

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Updates to Georgia's workers' compensation laws

The 2015 Georgia legislative year saw many updates and revisions to the state's workers' compensation laws. From new coverage requirements for employers to the weekly benefit caps for workers, HB 412, 2015 Workers' Compensation Bill gives us many changes that are worth reviewing.

Over the next several months, this blog will visit some of the key changes to the law, as they affect the employer and injured workers in Georgia. This month's post will focus on changes to the legal language regarding the board-approved panel of physicians an injured worker must refer to when seeking medical treatment for a work-related injury, disability or illness.

Selecting a doctor from an approved panel of physicians

For many years, injured workers have been required to seek medical treatment from a health care provider approved by the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation (SBWC). Deviations from the law were allowed only in cases when the injured worker did not live in an immediate geographic area to an approved doctor. One natural consequence was that many injured workers complained that the doctors on the approved list were ultimately working for the employer, as they were under pressure from insurers and the SBWC to return the worker to the job as quickly as possible, in order to reduce the cost of benefits.

Under amended laws, the employer must maintain a list of at least six qualified, reasonably accessible physicians from which the worker may choose to receive treatment. In geographic circumstances in which a list of six qualified physicians cannot be found, the SBWC will allow the list to reduce to four. Whether six or four doctors on the list, "panel physicians" must now be licensed in the specialty area of orthopedic surgery and the list may not include more than two industrial clinics. As before, injured workers may choose to change doctors to another doctor on the panel without prior authorization. Seeking medical care from physician not on the panel of physicians still requires written approval.

Managed care providers

Self-insured employers may sign a contract with a managed care organization to provide medical treatment, as long as the contract complies with the current panel regulations and the employees have been notified in advance that a contract has been signed with the managed care organization.

Next month, we will review changes to Code Section 34-9-261, relating to compensation cap increase for disability payments.

1 Comment

Picking from a list of licensed doctors sounds like a good idea to me. If you find yourself on workers compensation, it's obvious that you've been hurt somehow and need the best care. Working with a lawyer and then selecting the best doctor available is probably the quickest path to getting better. Thanks for the awesome info on workers compensation!

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