As reported this morning by Elena Mejia in the Houston Chronicle, members of a Texas State House committee are calling for major reforms to that state’s workers’ compensation program that would change coverage rules that now leave thousands of workers uninsured.
Yesterday, the House Committee on Business and Industry questioned state Insurance Department officials at length about employers who are now failing to provide coverage and continuing complaints about the state’s designated-doctor program.
Texas was the first and only state to allow employers to opt-out of the statutory workers’ comp system until Oklahoma passed legislation, that has since been ruled unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Testimony given before the committee indicated that participation by physicians in the Designated Doctor Program, in which state-approved doctors examine injured workers to decide claims in disputed cases, has dropped precipitously.
According to Stephen Norwood of the Texas Orthopedic Association, participation is down 67 percent, mostly because the state does not reimburse physicians enough for expenses to travel to remote locations.
Mr. Norwood stated that, “All this time away and expense often unexpectedly to remote locations doesn’t make it feasible for physicians to participate,”… “If you allowed proper specialists to evaluate several workers during same travel, you increase access of workers to more appropriate exams and more efficiency to physicians.”
This testimony caught my eye, as generally, I don’t write specifically about one state, but take an overall, big picture view of the issues surrounding workers’ comp and discuss how medical travel can be implemented to relieve those issues.
This would be a perfect scenario for such implementation, so that injured workers in remote parts of Texas can get their treatment in Mexico that may be less expensive to travel to, rather than to have physicians to take the time and expense to travel to those remote locations.
But I suspect that that solution will elude the Texas legislators like so many other issues have eluded them, such as allowing women the right to have abortions, or the right of all workers to be covered under a mandatory state workers’ comp system that is fair to both injured workers and their employers.
But that would be asking too much of them. Sort of like asking the village idiot from Texas to not think about going to war in two countries at the same time.