The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation reported in its 2023 Annual Report that medical-only claims for 2022 numbered 81,021. Each of these people had to navigate this complex system, including choosing a physician.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law provides injured workers with options for selecting a physician, including three physician panel options.
Conventional panel of physicians
The conventional panel of physicians is a common choice for injured workers. Employers must maintain a list of at least six approved healthcare providers. When an injury occurs, the employer must provide the injured worker with this panel. From this list, the worker selects one physician to be their treating doctor.
This option offers some flexibility, allowing injured workers to choose a healthcare provider who they believe can best address their specific needs. Workers also can make a change of doctors one time without having to get board approval. However, straying from the list may jeopardize workers’ compensation benefits.
Managed Care Organization panel
Some employers in Georgia opt for MCOs to manage workers’ compensation claims and medical treatment. If the employer is part of an MCO, the worker receives a panel of physicians affiliated with the organization.
Under this panel, workers have a range of doctors to choose from, similar to the conventional panel. However, it is important to note that MCOs may have specific procedures and guidelines for treatment, referrals and specialists. These guidelines can influence the choice of physicians and the course of medical care.
The conformed panel is similar to the conventional panel of physicians with two distinctions. There are 10 physicians minimum, which must include a chiropractor and general surgeon. This option provides expanded physician options, and including the two required specialist doctors is another benefit. Like with the conventional panel, a worker can change doctors one time without approval.
To exercise this option, employees must first notify their employers and the SBWC of their intent to seek a second opinion. The SBWC will then provide them with a new panel of physicians, from which to select a different treating doctor. This panel offers an alternative if an employee believes his or her current physician’s treatment plan is insufficient or experiences a dispute over medical care.
Injured workers in Georgia have several physician panel options, each with its own advantages and considerations. The choice can significantly impact recovery and workers’ ability to secure the compensation they need to move forward after a workplace injury.