For the past twenty plus years, the quality and value of workers’ compensation benefits in Florida have diminished. This is especially true for medical benefits.
There was a time in Florida when injured workers had a strong say in the selection of their primary care physician. In turn, the primary doctor could choose other physicians to provide specialized care. The employer/carrier was required to pay for all reasonable and necessary services.
Because this system limited the ability of employers/carriers to control the injured workers’ medical care, they petitioned the legislature for changes. The legislature answered their call … or so they thought.
In 1994, the Florida Legislature met in Special Session to revamp the workers’ compensation system. A primary focus was medical benefits. One of the brainstorms that came out of the Special Session was Managed Care.
Employers and carriers believed that a managed care system would give them greater control over the medical care received by injured workers. The plan was to limit the pool of doctors who would be allowed to treat injured workers. However, it did not work as planned because most managed care lists of authorized providers included doctors who were friendly to injured workers. Injured workers were free to choose from the list. The system survived until 2002.
In 2002, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, with strong backing from Governor Jeb Bush, dramatically limited the amount of control injured workers would have over their medical care. Although managed care remained in place, employers/carriers were given an alternative option of choosing all doctors. No longer would injured workers be allowed to choose their own doctors.
Not surprisingly, employers/carriers prefer this option over the more generous managed care system. Accordingly, it is rare today to find an employer or carrier utilizing managed care. (Also during this legislative session, the right of injured workers to second opinions and carrier-paid independent medical examinations (IMEs) were eliminated, making it more difficult to challenge the opinions of the employer/carriers’ hand-picked doctors.)