In our previous op-ed we discussed malpractice by Utilization Review doctors, namely, which ones were eligible for discipline from the Medical Board of California (MBC) and which ones were able to skedaddle from underneath this potentially onerous obligation. In a nutshell, UR doctors not licensed in California are allowed substantially more leeway than their properly licensed counterparts -- they can deny, modify, or approve care to California's injured workers without being subject to sanctions for unprofessional conduct from the MBC when their incorrect decisions are harmful to injured workers.
We then discussed the special relief that's granted to Independent Medical Review (IMR) doctors such as those used by Maximus. While many of these IMR doctors may be licensed in California, many are not. Physicians do not need to be licensed in California to do IMR thanks to SB 863 which grants at least two levels of protection to this favored class. First, the IMR doctor does not have to be licensed in California. Second, the IMR doctor gets to be anonymous, not unlike the situation in pre-revolutionary France where nobles were allowed to file secret complaints called "lettres de cachet" -- these accusations put hapless defendants into prison. The unlucky defendant was not told the name of his accuser.
Our editorial entitled "Malpractice by Utilization Review?" has been reprinted on other websites, e.g., workcompcentral, California Neurology Society, and has come to the attention of the California Applicants' Attorneys Association (CAAA). We call your attention to comments that have been submitted to workcompcentral, in particular, one from an orthopedic patient who said "I too am thinking about going to the CA medical board on a UR doctor."
This patient said he was made to "suffer for close to 5 weeks with the headaches that comes with spinal fluid leaks." These situations point out why SB 863 needs to be substantially modified or repealed.
Physicians know that utilization review occurs in diverse forms and isn't limited to workers comp or injured workers -- it's used for managed care of all kinds and for Medicare and Medicaid.
It appears that SB 863 has provided a safe-haven for malpractice protection for UR doctors and their 80% supportive IMR colleagues. It appears that one can argue with reasonable medical probability that SB 863 itself reflects legislative malpractice and has earned the right to be repealed.
Interested parties are referred to additional specific references (see below):
"Applicants' Attorneys Pan DWC's Rosy View of Independent Medical Review," by Greg Jones, Workcompcentral, 12/19/14;
"Maximus Upheld Denial of Treatment Four-Fifths of the Time," by Greg Jones, Workcompcentral, 12/16/14;
"Labor's Comp Expert Stepped on Toes to Make Reform," Workcompcentral, 12/10/14;
"Continuing Hope for Reinstatement of the Lien Activation Fee," Melissa LeBlanc, Workcompcental, 12/22/14.