OPEN LETTER TO ASSEMBLYMAN RICHARD PAN, MD
Chair, Assembly Committee on Health
15 January 2013
Dear Doctor Pan,
I am asking you to carry or sponsor legislation to repeal language within SB 863 that allows doctors who are not even licensed to practice medicine in California but who are allowed to do utilization reivew here to have their names kept secret. This secrecy is a way of making it even more difficult than it already is for injured workers to appeal wrongful denials of care.
SB 863 became effective as of 1 January 2013. An injured worker who is victimized by a stupid and harmful denial of care will not be allowed to file an appeal unless fraud, bias, or conflict of interest is suspected. The trouble is that since the legislation allows these doctors' names to be concealed, it will be truly challenging to file an appeal based on fraud, bias, or conflict of interest. The real problem, actually, is that the WCAB is no longer empowered to reverse wrongful decisions that harm injured workers. As a doctor, I don't think you would favor denials of treatment you prescribed to be done by doctors whose reports and names are not fully known to you. Am I wrong about that?
As matters stand now traditional Utilization Review does not need to be done by doctors who are licensed in California and are therefore responsible to our state medical board. Insurance companies can scour the country in search of malleable and cooperative doctors who will deny care on a myriad of technicalities no matter how harmful these denials of care are to injured workers. This injustice cannot happen in Texas. In Texas if California doctors want to do utilization review the doctors must be licensed in Texas. Since each state's medical board's jurisdiction is limited to its own state, many of the doctors doing utilization review or independent medical review in California may not come under the medical board jurisdiction of any state at all for their UR or IMR work in California. This largesse is estimated to cost California $10,000,000 annually -- an unwise choice for a state with financial woes.
Richard Fantozzi, MD, as president of the California Medical Board in 2008, told Governor Schwarzenegger that this step "would provide increased consumer protection over decisions that do not have patients as its primary concern." At the request of the insurance companies and the Chambers of Commerce, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have corrected this abuse. Under similar pressure, Gov. Brown also vetoed legislation that would have corrected this abuse. SB 863 now makes the denial process even more vicious since the IMR doctors' names will be protected.
That's why treating physicians and their patients need you and like minded colleagues to amend SB 863 so that injured workers get fair and equitable access to treatment. What say you?
Robert L. Weinmann, MD, Editor, www.politicsofhealthcare.com
WorkCompcentral, 1/12/13, Comment by this writer to News Article by John P. Kamin, Legal Editor
Work Compcentral, 1/10/13, "Out-of-state v. In-state Utilization Review," Robert Weinmann, MD
TotalCapitol.com, 3/11/12, "Utilization Review as a gift to insurance companies," Bob Weinmann