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Be Careful How and Why You Defer UR…

Happy Monday, dear readers!

I bring to you the case of Millette v. 81 Grand holdings, Inc., a recent writ-denied case having to do with deferral of utilization review.  Applicant sustained an injury for which no denial was issued within 90 days of it being reported, and defendant provided neck surgery.  Following the surgery, various treating physicians requested several forms of treatment, all of which were deferred by the defense because “causation is in dispute.”

Applicant filed for an expedited hearing, and the WCJ awarded treatment, reasoning that California Code of Regulations section 9792.9.1(b) requires a “clear, concise, and appropriate explanation of the reason for the claims administrator’s dispute of liability for either the injury, claimed body part or parts, or the recommended treatment.”  The WCJ found that “causation is in dispute” did not satisfy the requirements of the regulation.

On reconsideration, defendant argued that this order would bypass utilization review, but the WCJ, in his report and recommendation, relied on subsection (D) of 9792.9.1, which provides that the injured employee may use “the dispute resolution process of the [WCAB].”

The WCAB denied reconsideration and the Court of Appeal denied review.

Of interest in this case is that defendant was put in a position where the injury was presumably compensable, as per Labor Code 5402(b) (“[i]f liability is not rejected within 90 days after the date the claim form is filed under Section 5401, the injury shall be presumed compensable under this division.”)  So, what is the defense basis for disputing causation?

Well, the injury itself was a trip-and-fall, resulting in injury to the neck and face.  But the RFAs were for treatment home care, a Foley catheter, a power wheel chair, and a urological consult.  If defendant is aware of pre-existing medical conditions that might create the need for this additional treatment, conceivably there would be valid grounds for whether the treatment is necessary specifically for the industrial injury.

But, it looks like a more concise explanation would be necessary to defer UR.  Perhaps further discovery would also be necessary prior to litigating the issue – defendants have the resources of a 4050 exam which can be used to cross-examine the treating physicians and even to guide and inform the cross-examination of a PQME on the issue of causation (your humble blogger will go toe-to-toe with anyone on Star Wars trivia, but might need some professional guidance when it comes to whether a neck surgery might cause urinary problems).

Defendants can subpoena prior treatment reports to show the need for these treatments existed prior to the industrial injury – perhaps an applicant’s private insurance records will include a denied request for such treatment predating the DOI?

In any case, dear readers, perhaps UR is a safe route to do as well?  After all, while section 9792.9.1 allows the disputes to be resolved through the WCAB, Dubon II allows no such disturbance from a timely and properly communicated UR report.  It might be worth the vendor fee and IMR bill.

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