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How doctor selection works for longshore and harbor workers

Longshore and harbor workers should know their rights to medical services. In this post we will explore how you choose your doctor.

The medical services and supplies that the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (LHWCA) provides is outlined in section 907 of the law. Employers must offer medical treatment for the injured worker.

Who chooses the physician?

The LHWCA permits employees to choose their doctor. However, employees can only select from a list approved by the Secretary of Labor. Employees cannot select a physician outside of the list without risking losing their compensation benefits.

The employer will select the physician if the worker’s injury renders them unable to make the choice.

Can you change the physician?

For some injury victims, the first doctor may not have been the best choice. Employees can request to change doctors, but they require consent from the employer, insurance carrier or deputy commissioner.

A commonly approved reason for a request is that the doctor does not specialize in the type of injury the worker received. The Secretary of Labor can also order a change in doctors or hospitals if it is necessary for health or financial reasons.

Which physicians are authorized?

While some workers may not like that their medical services are limited to what the Secretary of Labor authorizes, most of the requirements are designed to make the selections fair. The LHWCA prohibits doctors who have been caught:

  • Making false statements about the treatment and costs in the claim for compensation or reimbursement.
  • Adding unnecessary charges about the services and supply to the victim without good cause.
  • Charging more for the service than the typical standard, or performing their services in a low-quality or unprofessional manner.
  • Facing criminal charges for their practices under a federal or state law.

The act tries to ensure that injured longshore workers receive professional and financially reasonable medical services. But that doesn’t always happen. Victims and families of injured workers should seek professional legal advice if they have concerns.

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