As someone who fights for Oklahoma’s working people every day, I am concerned about a workers’ compensation bill making its way through the Legislature.
A provision in House Bill 2367 would require doctors treating people with workers’ compensation claims to follow what are called official disability guidelines, or ODGs.
Mandated ODGs dictate what treatments doctors can use for their patients. If physicians go against the ODG in their patient’s best interests, their recommended procedure can be denied.
The only group that benefits from mandatory use of ODGs are insurance companies that always look for reasons to deny claims. If this provision passes, half of all procedures could be rejected. That will certainly save large corporations money, but it will only add to the hardships of injured workers fighting a system set up to hold them back.
Right now, medical professionals are merely advised to use ODGs; it’s not a requirement. But I’ve talked to doctors and nurses, and they already hate ODGs. In the current system, physicians can still do what they think is best for workers’ compensation patients. If an insurance company doesn’t want to pay up, a judge can approve treatments outside the ODGs.
If the new law passes, a local doctor who has actually worked with a patient and seen how he or she responds to treatment would not be the final decision maker on what is best for someone’s health. The doctor might prescribe a steroid shot, for example, and a bureaucrat could decide not to pay for it.
Nobody should accept this interference with treatment, especially not injured Oklahomans who are already struggling to take care of their families, especially when they are not able to draw a paycheck.
Doctors understand how unfair it is to take away their freedom to practice and how much it harms patients. If the Senate moves forward with a bill to require use of ODGs, I hope medical professionals will stand with my colleagues and me to fight against the legislation.
Although there are many ways to improve the state’s new workers’ compensation system, I would rather see no reforms than any package which makes ODGs mandatory for doctors.
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