State of Workers’ Comp in Georgia: Increase to income benefits and our thoughts on the PMT
The workers’ comp system remains stable. However, this past year saw the biggest increase in the max weekly comp rate ever from $575 to $675. It may take more time to see the full impact of this change. Additionally, the Board continues to focus on expediting medical treatment. Two years ago, the PMT process was introduced to expedite medical treatment by setting phone calls with judges on medical requests from the authorized treating physician.
It is clear that some claimant’s attorneys have used the PMT procedure excessively and some judges are aware of these abuses. The fact is that calls with the judges are set to occur within a week of the filing which puts additional pressure on our side. However, you always have the option to controvert which sometimes is the only good option if the doctor has not provided enough information to support the recommendation. This is unfortunate but judges have not always been receptive to the argument that the doctor has failed to give enough supporting documentation.
PMTs also have highlighted how technology can sometimes make the process go too quickly as employers and insurers are forced to make decisions without being provided everything they need to make an informed decision. To combat this challenge, we continue to recommend that anytime a doctor asks for approval, you request written confirmation for the need before the claimant has an opportunity to file a PMT. On the positive side, this past year the Board promulgated a new rule allowing employer and insurers to request a PMT when the claimant was not going back to the ATP. We recommend using the new employer friendly PMT to make sure claimants attend appointments and when necessary request hearings to force compliance by the claimant in other areas like return to work. Being willing to litigate can actually serve to reduce litigation overall as claimants and their attorneys realize that you will not be intimidated into giving in.
Update on the Doctor Search and our Panel Project
We now have over 2,000 doctors in our data base. At our website, www.atkinsdavid.com, you can search for physicians throughout Georgia by location or specialty. If you would like a specific recommendation, such as for an IME or for providers to put on your panel, please contact one of our attorneys. Speaking of panels, our firm provides a free service to our clients. We will review your existing panels to make sure you are in legal compliance. We will also assist you in updating or creating new panels for all your locations in Georgia. We recently did an audit for a client with 46 locations in the State, at no charge. Please contact Jennifer Smith to get started at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New at the State Board: “Track Policy” – A Coverage Verification Enhancement
On December 3, the State Board announced a new coverage verification enhancement system which will allow users to be notified by email if a cancellation or subsequent reinstatement transaction is received for a chosen insurance policy. There will be no charge to the user for utilizing the system. The Board did not provide any additional details but we expect more information in early 2020.
This new system may help general contractors who employ subs where there is no OCIP or CCIP policy. Like any system, it will only be as good as the accuracy of the data in it. However, the mere existence of such a system is an improvement, recognizing that independent verification once you do receive a notification will likely be important. As the Board releases specifics, we will update you.
End of Year Message
As we end the year, I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish together. Thank you for choosing us as your “partner” in representing your interests. And speaking of partners, I want to thank my law partner Alissa Atkins who we added to the firm name this year. I am fortune to have three great partners along with fantastic associates and staff. Our firm has grown in size this year, but what matters most to us are the relationships within the firm and with you, our clients. Wishing everyone a safe and joyous holiday season and great start to the New Year.