California law states that the insurance carrier can choose the treating doctor during the first 30 days of the workers’ compensation claim. This usually means you are receiving treatment from US Healthworks, Concentra or Kaiser Occupational Medicine Unit which usually are in the business of sending injured workers back to work without providing diagnostics (MRI, Xray, EMG/NCS) because they are “too expensive.” They will not document each complaint and often write you off as “faking it.” They will send you back to work by indicating they are not “allowed” to put you off of work or provide work restrictions. They will state that if treatment is denied there is nothing they can do and give up by releasing you with no treatment.
You are allowed to change doctors after 30 days. Until 2004, injured workers in California could get medical treatment from any doctor. They had free choice. The laws now permits the insurance company and employer to force injured workers to get medical treatment in their Medical Provider Network. Most insurance companies and employers have Medical Provider Networks. Some are more restrictive than others but it is important to seek good treatment from a docotr that can also issue a report to assist in your case. Once your 30 days have passed, if you are not happy with your treatment, ask your claims examiner how to access the network. Often times they will not volunteer this information unless asked and even then, they sometimes tell you you are not allowed to change or try to tell you what specialty to chose. Seek advice since it is important to be with the doctor who is going to best treatment, fight for denied treatment instead of giving up, document all injuries, and skilled in issuing reports that will be relied upon by the workers’ compensation Judge.
In the rare case where the employer or carrier does not have a Medical Provider Network, injured workers still have free choice.