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Choice in medical care for ill and injured workers

Workers' compensation benefits have now been available to Connecticut workers for a century. The original Connecticut Workers' Compensation Act was adopted in 1913 and has undergone a number of changes since then. One area that has been extensively refined by the legislature is the selection of medical care providers for ill or injured workers.

What workers' compensation provides

The basic goal of workers' compensation is to provide medical treatment and wage replacement benefits for employees who are injured or become ill on the job. While attending to an employee's health care needs is of paramount importance, the program also pays some wages to an employee who is unable to work for a period of time.

The amount of wage replacement depends on when the employee has been rendered permanently unemployable and will eventually be able to return to some employment. A worker may receive temporary total disability payments while unable to to work at all. Even if an employee's disability resulting from work-related injury or illness prevents the employee from returning full time to the former job, the employee may be able to do some kind of work, part or full time.

When an employee has some level of persistent disability but can work reduced time at the old job, or part time or full time at some suitable job, temporary partial disability benefits can be paid. Medical benefits continue as long as there is a need for treatment.

Choosing providers

In Connecticut, an injured or ill worker's employer is responsible for designating a health care facility where the worker receives initial treatment paid for under the employer's workers' compensation plan. After one visit with the employer's designated provider, the worker can then receive treatment from any licensed medical provider who is on a list of practitioners approved by the Workers' Compensation Commission Chairman. Covered practitioners include not only medical doctors, but also chiropractors and naturopathic physicians.

Connecticut law also allows workers to receive spiritual healing or treatment by prayer from a church member. The treatment need not involve any conventional medicine, but it must be approved by a state Workers' Compensation Commissioner.

Workers can change care providers but must adhere to a process prescribed by state law. First, the worker has to obtain a referral from the current care provider or receive permission from the employer or its insurance company to change providers. Next, the worker has to send a written request to a Workers' Compensation Commissioner, including information about the current provider and the desired substitute, as well as the reason for requesting the change.

A complex system

To be certain of obtaining the benefits rightfully deserved when an employee becomes sick or injured on the job, it is important to have a good understanding of the workers' compensation system. Seeking help from an attorney who works in this area will ensure having an advocate who can answer questions and make sure the proper procedures are followed. Connecticut workers have a long-established right to be compensated when they are hurt on the job or become ill from job-related hazards, but they must take care to conform to legal requirements in order to receive benefits.