At a time when more than 60 percent of states have decreased workers’ compensation benefits or made it harder to obtain such benefits, Pennsylvania has remained constant and protected the rights of injured workers. Pennsylvania is one of only nine states that ProPublica says has not passed major workers’ comp reform; unlike many other states, Pennsylvania has not changed its laws to set arbitrary time limits on temporary wage benefits, expand the use of outside medical reviewers or increase the instances of denying claims based on pre-existing conditions.
In terms of choice of physician provisions in the law, Pennsylvania requires that employees treat injuries with an employer-preferred physician for the first 90 days after the injury. However, this requirement only applies if an employer produces a list of at least six providers and the employer had the employee sign two documents indicating the employee’s acknowledgement of rights and duties. While this can place some restrictions on an employee’s choice of medical provider, it is still less cumbersome and restrictive than provisions in many other states’ workers’ comp laws.
In our experience, most employers fail to comply with the requirements above, leaving an injured worker free to choose his or her own physician right away. It is important to discuss your situation with an attorney to find out for sure whether you can choose your own doctor.
The fact that radical changes have not occurred in Pennsylvania does not mean that such changes to the state’s workers’ comp system will never be proposed. As such, it is important to remain informed on this issue and to spread the word regarding the ways that workers’ comp in the U.S. has been attacked in recent years.