California is ranked as one of the slowest states to start treating injured workers. The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB) wanted to conduct a survey to show the impact the Covid-19 pandemic was having on delaying care for injured workers. However, there was very little information available to them at the time so instead they used historical data in an attempt to extrapolate what the impact will be. The results were not good and keep in mind these results reflect a reality that existed before the pandemic.
In the study the WCIRB evaluated the long-term costs impact of medical care treatment delays. This delay will have a direct impact on the long terms costs that injured workers will face and will result in a negative impact on how long settlement funds will last until completely exhausted. Any delay in treatment must be factored into the cost analysis for settlement.
On average, soft tissue injuries had a one-month delay before treatment began. Delayed medical attention prolonged the injuries, caused a longer duration of temporary disability, and contributed to permanent disability. Some of the cost increases were staggering. Claims involving low back pain had the largest cost differences with up to a 186% increase for the longest delay in the study. For claims involving acute injuries, such as dislocation, sprains and fractures, delayed treatment increased costs by 50%.
Delayed medical care also had an impact on the duration of temporary disability. The median temporary disability duration for injuries with delayed treatment was almost twice as long for applicants treated timely. Low back pain had the biggest differential – up to six times longer for those whose treatment was delayed.
In an effort to address this delay, California legislators have introduced Assembly Bill 1465. The bill seeks to address delays in treatment and to ultimately set up a state wide medical provider network that would give injured workers better access and more freedom to choose a doctor. The bill was introduced in February 2021 and is currently in review by committees. According to committee notes, the current law authorizes an employer to establish a network of health care providers (MPN) from which the injured employee must select to obtain treatment. According to the bill’s sponsor, although MPNs must be approved, in practice many of these networks provide significant challenges for patients, ranging from out-of-date provider directories to listing doctors that actually do not treat in the workers’ compensation system. This all results in delays in care for injured workers.
So, the already existing delays suffered by injured workers seeking treatment in California has been compounded by the delays caused by the Pandemic. It is no surprise and the WCRIB report notes, that the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant shelter in place orders caused substantial disruption to health care access for injured workers in California. Even once medical service providers started to resume “normal” operations there is little doubt that injured workers were fearful to venture out to their doctor’s office.
It’s critical that if you are injured at work that you reach out to an attorney and seek medical care as quickly as possible. MSA Meds is here to help you navigate post settlement and to work with you to maximize the longevity of your settlement funds.