Division of Workers’ Compensation Cautions Community About Coercing Medical Evaluators

July 21, 2006

The California Division of Workers’ Compensation has issued a statement advising that it is “neither ethical nor proper to attempt to coerce medical providers.”

According to William Zachry, vice president of corporate workers’ compensation for Safeway and chair of the Workers’ Compensation Fraud Assessment Commission, the statement stemmed from controversy that arose when a Los Angeles attorney sent an e-mail to doctors who evaluate injured workers for the state workers’ compensation program, saying that a group of attorneys would not support any doctor who contributed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign. Zachry was the keynote speaker at the Golden Gate Chapter of the Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc.’s meeting in San Francisco on July 20.

According to the CDWC, the lawyer who wrote the e-mail was a member of the California Applicant’s Attorneys Association (CAAA) board of governors.

“We want as unbiased a group of medical evaluators as possible,” said DWC Executive Medical Director Dr. Anne Searcy in the statement. “Physicians need to be free to perform exams and report on cases without being pressured to produce a specific result or support a specific political agenda.”

“It is improper for a physician, attorney or others to offer, deliver, receive or accept compensation or inducement for a referred evaluation or consultation. Physicians should not be required to express a political preference or make a political contribution, or suffer any other form of coercion, in order to receive patient referrals,” she said.

The statement also noted: “Labor Code section 139.3(c)(2) provides that it is unlawful for ‘a physician to …accept any preference or other consideration as inducement for a referred evaluation…’

“Labor Code section 4906(g) requires the attorney for each party to sign a statement under penalty of perjury that it has not offered any preference as inducement for any referred examination.

“Labor Code section 3215 states that any person who offers, receives or accepts any preference as inducement for referring clients or patients to perform or obtain services is guilty of a crime.”

A related article was published in today’s Los Angeles Times.

“Applicant attorney’s income is down, and they attribute that to Schwarzenegger,” Zachry said. “This is very intersting from a political and legislative sense.”

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