As the new political and legislative year unfolds, stakeholders are keeping their eye on the prize, medical benefits, in the workers' compensation arena. Recent court decisions continue to emphasize the major significance of medical care and continue to question the ability of the presently crafted system to deliver medical benefits in an efficient and effective manner.
The New Jersey Appellate Court declared that medical providers have standing to seek reimbursement for the full amount of medical fees from a workers' compensation carrier. Failure to attempt to pay or negotiate an obligation, that it denied by implied "refusal to treat" actions, resulted in an employer being obligated to pay the full freight, medical bills, and a counsel fee for recovery. Villanueva v. Federal Express, Inc. DOCKET NO. A-4342-06T24342-06T2 Medical liens remain a critical issue in workers' compensation. Legislation is pending to centralize the chaotic and disruptive process.
In another decision the NJ Supreme Court insulated the insurance carrier from an employee's medical malpractice claim, but did not permit the exclusivity doctrine to extend to the workers' compensation medical expert for a deviation from practice action. This dramatically increases the potential recovery for failure to provide adequate care in a workers' compensation claim. Barbara Basil, etc. v. Frank A. Wolf, et al. (A-80-05/A-110-06)
Universal medical remains a critical factor in 2008 politics. While Hilary lost Iowa, the exit poles demonstrate that people who wanted a change voted for Obama. "Obama won huge among those who cared most about change -- 51-19." The New Hampshire poles reflect while health care is a a critical issue to most Americans the major questions remains over what the action should be taken to fix the ailing system.
Compounding the problem is the fact that workers' compensation carriers have continued to shift the burden on to others. Whether it be private carriers or CMS ,the situation has now been inflamed by those who attempt to legislatively again limit the workers' compensation carriers' responsibility even in contested situations. This short sighted shell game will merely add even more outrage by taxpayers as Medicare fails to be able to pay its own bills.