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Judges rule on workers' comp billing issues

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Employers or their insurers - not health care providers - must prove when medical expenses for injured employees might be considered higher than what's allowed under the state's workers' compensation statute, according to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In a series of rulings today that deal with injured firefighters and city workers in multiple Hoosier communities, a three-judge appellate panel interpreted the Indiana Workers' Compensation Act and how it applies to state statutes about medical billing disputes.

"This case requires us to review several statutes under the Act that balance the right of medical service providers to seek payment for medical care to injured workers, against the right of employers to demand that such payments not be excessive," the unanimous panel wrote, turning to its own Indiana precedent as well as rulings from other state and federal courts.

The cases are Washington Township Fire Department v. Beltway Surgery Center, No. 93A02-0811-EX-01006; City of Michigan City v. Memorial Hospital, No. 93A02-0811-EX-01010; and Onward Fire Department v. Clarian Health Partners, No. 93A02-0811-EX-01007. Three other suits on identical issues, filed the same day in November and assigned to the same writing panel of judges, were handed down June 25. They are Adecco Inc. v. Clarian Health Partners, No. 93A02-0811-EX-1008; Morgan County Commissioners v. Clarian Health Partners, No. 93A02-0811-EX-1009; and Wayne Township Fire Department v. Beltway Surgery Center, No. 93A02-0811-EX-1011.

The Washington case handed down June 24 dealt with medical provider Beltway Surgery Center, specifically involving about $11,563 in billed medical care that an injured firefighter received in March 2005 after sustaining injuries on the job. The township's workers' compensation insurer hired a billing review service as allowed by the Indiana Workers' Compensation Act, and that service determined the surgery center was charging too much - it didn't fall below a standard 80th percentile, the maximum amount an employer's "pecuniary liability" can be for medical services under the act. That service recommended that only about $5,104 be paid, and Beltway Surgery took the case to the compensation board to recover the remaining unpaid amount it had billed.

The other two unpublished opinions dealt with similar issues, one involving a Michigan City employee who received care at Memorial Hospital of South Bend, and the other an Onward Fire Department employee who received care at Clarian Health Partners.

With the lead and only published opinion of Washington, the panel unanimously determined that if an employer or its insurer refuses to pay the full amount of a medical service provider's bill, then the employer must prove before the Indiana Workers' Compensation Board that its pecuniary liability to that provider is less than the billed charges. The judges also held that if an employer fails to prove how a billing review service calculated that the amount exceeded the 80th percentile standard, then the board could order the employer to pay the full amount of the submitted bill.

"We conclude that placing the burden of proof on the employer is more consistent with Indiana law generally and with the Act itself," the court wrote. "The 80th percentile rule is a more precise codification of the general principle that medical bills sought to be recovered during litigation be reasonable and not be excessive."

Since employers or their insurers are allowed to hire billing review companies, then those reviewers should be capable of offering proof as to why a billed amount might be considered excessive, the court wrote. To conclude otherwise and require doctors or hospitals to prove why their bills aren't excessive would presume that happens more often than not and might stop medical service providers from providing that care to injured workers, out of fear they might not get fully paid.

"The value of such assurance of payment as an incentive for medical service providers to treat injured workers under the Act would be greatly diminished if employers, their insurers, and billing review services were permitted to make unilateral decisions to pay providers less than the amount of their billed charges without being required to prove the validity of such a reduction," the court wrote.

It would be up to the General Assembly to amend statute so that medical providers bear the burden of establishing that their bills fall outside that guideline, the judges determined.

The panel affirmed each of the decisions by the Workers' Compensation Board to place the burden on employers, and award the full amount of billed charges.

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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