Little Change to Rules on Choice of Physician

By Jason Weinstock on June 23, 2009

The 2009 legislative session was preoccupied with the economic crisis,  the state budget, and an unprecedented number of bills vetoed by the governor, the majority of which  were promptly reaffirmed by the state assembly and senate. Injured workers seeking reforms didn’t stand much of a chance to make significant changes in this climate.   However, Assembly Bill 281 made some minor reforms to NRS 616C.090, the law allowing insurers to establish exclusive providers lists from which injured workers must choose a treating doctor. 

Section 3 to A.B. 281 clarifies that an injured worker may request an alternative choice of physician from the insurer’s provider list without the insurer’s approval , if the alternative choice is made within 90 days after the injury.   However, expect insurers whose initial denial of the claim is overturned to continue to argue that the injured worker has no right to choose an alternative treating physician after 90 days, even if it takes more than 90 days to get the claim accepted after a lengthy appeals process.

This bill also clarifies that an injured worker may request an alternative physician from the insurer’s provider list after 90 days, and if the insurer denies this request, it must give a specific , written reason for denying the request .  In other words, the insurer can no longer deny the request simply because the request was made  90 days after the injury.  

I think the most helpful change to the law is the addition of a provision in section 3 that a written request for a change of physician that includes the name of the new physician (who is on the insurer’s provider list), will be deemed granted if no action is taken on the request by the insurer within 10 days. Whether the insurer can subsequently issue a written denial with appeal rights under this amendment will undoubtedly be the subject of debate during  future appeals .

Two years ago, in Valdez v. Employers Insurance Company of Nevada, 123 Nev. Adv. Op. 21 (2007), the Nevada Supreme Court held that injured workers with accepted workers compensation claims have no substantive right to choose a treating physician, and can be required to treat with physicians contracted by the insurer or employer to provide care.    The court went on to state in that case that the Nevada legislature may retroactively change the manner in which an injured worker may select a physician, and may impose limits on that selection procedure.   The recent amendment to the law  on selection of an alternative physician takes a little bit of the sting out of the Valedez ruling. This amendment became effective July 1, 2009.