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This is America, we have a freedom of choice, right?!  Not in some states when it comes to choosing your medical care for an injury.

In Illinois, for example, if a worker suffers a work-related injury, he or she may select a doctor of their own choice.  The employer does not have the right to direct the injured worker to their own doctor and demand that the individual receive medical attention from a particular physician or a particular medical facility.  While the employer may, from time to time, request that an injured worker be examined by a doctor of its choice, the right to have a worker examined is not the same as the right to demand that the worker receive medical attention from a doctor who was not selected by the injured worker.  If a dispute arises, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is the state agency that will conduct a hearing and resolve the dispute.  In fact, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission allows an injured worker two separate choices for medical care.  For example, an injured worker who sees a family doctor and is then referred to another doctor, is considered to have used one choice and not two choices of medical care. 

On the other hand, the Iowa Workers’ Compensation system does not allow the injured worker to select his or her own doctor.  In fact, the law permits the employer to select a doctor that the injured worker must go to for medical treatment. Frequently, the doctors selected by the employer work in clinics that have marketed their services as occupational health clinics and receive many of their referrals directly from employers.  Many workers feel that the medical providers in these clinics do not consistently have their best interests in mind.  The employers are allowed to make direct contact with the health care providers – an arrangement that strikes many injured workers as intrusive.  The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner allows for an injured worker to transfer medical care in certain situations.  However, the requirements for doing so are very stringent and not easily satisfied. 

It is extremely important for an injured worker to understand what his or her choices are regarding the selection of medical care. If a worker exceeds the two free choices of medical care in Illinois or, in Iowa, seeks medical care on his or her own without obtaining the employer’s approval, the employer/workers’ compensation insurance company may not be responsible for payment of medical expenses.

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