When you are hurt and need medical care, it’s natural to want to visit your regular doctor. You likely have a relationship with your physician and they know your medical history. You trust them to take care of you.
Following a workplace injury, you do not necessarily have this option. Instead, in order to take advantage of workers’ compensation benefits, you have to adhere to some strict rules.
A (limited) choice
Georgia law lays out a number of rights and requirements for both employers and employees when it comes to workers’ compensation. The choice of a treating physician following an on-the-job injury is no exception.
As explained in the workers’ compensation bill of rights, employers are required to have a list of authorized workers’ comp doctors posted. This list, known as a panel, must include at least six physicians. (Alternatively, the employer might have a managed care organization with which it contracts.)
If a worker is injured while on the job, he or she can choose the treating doctor of their choice from this panel of physicians. This can help ensure the employee remains eligible for workers’ comp benefits.
There is one key exception: In an emergency situation, the worker can receive initial care from any provider. Once that emergency is over, he or she must move care to one of the authorized physicians.
What happens if I don’t like the doctor?
State law allows an injured worker to make one swap without permission from the employer. This means, if you’re unhappy with your initial choice of physician, you can select a different authorized doctor from the panel of physicians without running afoul of workers’ comp rules.
After that, your options become quite limited.
What happens if you throw caution to the wind and go to a doctor not on the authorized list? You’ll likely be stuck paying for those costs out of pocket. However, if you have serious concerns about the care you’re receiving from one of the physicians on the panel, there may be options to explore with an attorney.