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Treatment: Why can't I choose my own doctor?

The Workers' Compensation Law gives the employer the right to select the health care providers for the injured worker. The employer usually delegates that right to the insurance company. This does not necessarily mean that the insurance company "directs" the medical care; the treating physician selected or "authorized" by the employer/insurer directs the medical care using his or her own independent medical judgment. However, the employer/insurer does have a qualified right to select or authorize a change in physician if the employer/insurer disagrees with the authorized treating physician.

It is important to note that while the employer usually delegates the right to select the health care providers to the insurance company, it is the employer's right. Therefore, if the employer and the insurance company disagree on this matter, theemployer's wishes should prevail.

Section 287.140 RSMo states, in part: "If the employee desires, he shall have the right to select his own physician, surgeon, or other such requirement at his own expense." Therefore, you can choose your own doctor, but at your own expense. Because of the expense, this is often not much of a choice. If you have health insurance, it may not be helpful to you in a workers′ compensation case, as many health insurance policies have an exclusion for work-related injuries. MO HealthNet (formerly Medicaid) may pay for treatment if you qualify, but there may be restrictions.

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