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Hurt at work: Does the employer pick the doctor?

Workers' compensation benefits in Wisconsin cover injuries from a single accident or a condition that develops over time because of particular job duties. An employee has the right to treatment that is reasonable and necessary. This includes hospitalization, therapy, prosthetic devices, rehabilitation, tests, medicine and travel, when ordered by the treating physician or medical care provider.

A question often asked by workers is whether they must initially see a doctor chosen by their employers. Under the law, the answer is no. When a worker reports an injury, the employer must offer the employee the right to select his or her doctor. Any physician, chiropractor, podiatrist or psychologist licensed to practice in Wisconsin may be seen for treatment.

If it is an emergency situation, the employer may make whatever arrangements are necessary to take care of the employee immediately. After initial handling of the emergency, future treatment may be obtained from the worker's doctor of choice. A doctor not licensed in Wisconsin can provide treatment other than in an emergency only with the consent of the insurer.

Sometimes, a lack of confidence in the first choice, for whatever reason, can delay an employee's recovery. When this happens, the employee may let the employer know he or she is going to see a different doctor. The employer may not oppose the second choice. If there is a need to change again, it can only be upon agreement among the employee, employer and workers' compensation insurance carrier. A partnership or group of doctors as well as a specialist referral is considered to be treatment by one physician.

It's important to remember that an employee has to inform the employer of the initial selection of a doctor and any subsequent change. If that doesn't happen, the claim might be disputed. The employee could end up paying for treatment. Workers' compensation benefits are helpful and often critical to recovery, but employees and employers must adhere to the legal requirements involved.

Source: State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, "Choice of Doctor and Payment of Medical Expenses," accessed May. 21, 2015

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