The July Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) meeting held in Baton Rouge on Thursday focused primarily on revisions to several forms, an issue previously debated and discussed at the March meeting. Council members also addressed a letter sent by Dr. Clark Gunderson to WCAC Chair and Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC) Director Sheral Kellar regarding the differences between two types of pain management physicians.
Acting Director of the Second Injury Board Meridith Trahant and OWCA Records Section Director Andre de la Fuente again presented the new forms, which are intended to streamline the process for records requests and second injury fund reimbursements and introduce certain fees. The drafts presented yesterday contained edits and additional language to address council members’ concerns in the March meeting.
Second draft of key forms discussed
Andre de la Fuente went through the new records request form section by section, which creates a new $25 fee to pull records and (in a companion form) requires the signed consent of the employee in order to process the request for information about any previous workers’ comp claims or judgments. The employee has the option on the companion form to only allow public records to be released or to allow all records.
Council member Shannon Lindsey voiced concerns she previously shared about ensuring that the employee understands that they do not have to consent to the release of all of the information on the companion form. Lindsey suggested that de la Fuente and Trahant include language similar to the choice of physician form in the final draft.
The impetus for this re-tooled records form, according to Director Kellar, is the prevalence of headhunters pulling the information of numerous persons and eliminating them from consideration for a position if they have a previous workers’ comp claim. The form’s new checkboxes are meant to delineate who is asking for the information and alert the employer that there are consequences under the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to alert the employee about the request and for misuse of the information (i.e. seeking records out before an employment offer has been made).
The $25 fee for records gathering and to certify any of the documents is because of the cost incurred at the Records Section’s offsite storage facility. Trahant explained that every record pulled costs them over $20 and that the Section receives 50 to 80 requests per day. Trahant and de la Fuente also confirmed that they plan to create a Frequently Asked Questions document about how to fill out the form and its proper usage, which will be posted on the website.
For the new Second Injury Board (SIB) form, council members, particularly representatives of injured workers, previously voiced concerns about employees’ ability to read and understand the nature of the document and why they are filling it out. Employer representatives countered that it is impossible for the employer to know if the employee understands something, and that they would not want to sign something to that effect. To address both of those concerns, the following statement was added: “I have confirmed that the employee is able to read the information provided on this questionnaire, or I have personally read the questionnaire to the employee.”
Shannon Lindsey suggested that to bridge the gap between the new language and concerns about understanding that the phrase “the employee has expressed to me that he or she understands” be added. She also suggested adding a “date of hire” line to further ensure that the SIB questionnaire is only to be used after an employment offer has been made. Ray Peters stated that he would prefer “date of offer” since the requirement for use of the form is an offer. Director Kellar said that she isn’t sure that either statement is necessary because employers are “on a honor system.”
The Notice of Intent (NOI) for all of these forms is likely to be filed in the next edition of the Louisiana Register.
Dr. Gunderson Letter to the Director
The last order of business was an issue raised by Lake Charles-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. Clark Gunderson. Director Kellar explained that she received the letter in May. “He explained in the letter that there are two types of pain management specialists,” she said. “Basically one group provides medications and the other group does injections, like epidural steroid injections. His problem is that if a claimant chooses a doctor in the field of pain management that does injections, that if it was determined that they needed a pain specialist other than that, they would have already chosen their one doctor in that field.” Gunderson asked how he should address that problem so Director Kellar came to the Council for an answer.
Shannon Lindsey said she has had inconsistency with different carriers about whether or not a second pain management specialist is approved. Dr. Paul Hubbell, a pain management doctor in attendance at the meeting, confirmed that there is a difference between specialists that should be considered. He explained that the Legislature passed a law several years ago that said that a pain management doctor that prescribes controlled substances to more than 50 percent of their patients must register as a pain clinic. “Not every doctor does that,” he said. “I don’t and I send those patients to another place that does. There’s pain medicine which follows the clinic rules and then there’s pain management.”
Director Kellar determined that to clarify the difference Dr. Hubbell and Dr. Gunderson described that she would have a bulletin posted on the OWC page of the Louisiana Workforce Commission website.
The next WCAC meeting is August 24th at the LaSalle Building in Baton Rouge (617 N Third St.) LaBelle Hearing room beginning at 9:30 AM.
Image Credit: Victig Screening Solutions