Having a good doctor, and one you can trust, is one of the most important parts of getting through a work injury. It’s good for your health, of course, but it also helps when it comes to getting the benefits that are available to you under Illinois workers’ compensation law.
Regardless of what the insurance company or your boss might tell you, they can’t hand pick a doctor to treat you for your work injury. Some employers have preferred provider networks and require that you choose a doctor from their network, but you can even opt out of that if you want (read below for more information on the effect of doing this).
The law states that employees who suffer a job-related injury are entitled to 100% coverage of their medical bills, including appointments, medications, physical therapy and even surgery. The law does limit, however, the number of doctors who can treat you for that injury.
For a single injury, you are allowed two selections when it comes to doctors. Included in each of these selections are any referrals from that specific doctor. If you select your longtime primary care doctor to be your doctor for your work injury, and they refer you to a surgeon, then you’ve still used just one of your selections (even though you’ve seen two doctors). If your employer has a preferred provider network, and you opt out, then you are left with just one selection. Opting out counts as one of your two choices.
If you go to the doctor your employer suggests, then you risk the possibility of seeing a doctor who doesn’t have your best interests in mind. Why would your employer suggest a particular doctor? One reason is because that doctor is likely to send you back to work sooner. You don’t want a doctor who is essentially on the side of your employer and pushing you back to work before you are ready. You could worsen your injury or suffer a new one.
The law not only gives you the freedom to choose your own doctor, but it limits the amount of interference the insurance company can have in your healthcare. Make sure you don’t give the insurance company, or anyone who works with them, more access than necessary. Don’t authorize unlimited access to your medical records. Don’t let them attend your doctor appointments. And don’t let them try to influence your treatment in any way. The best way to avoid these things is to have an experienced attorney guiding you through the process and alerting you to any red flags.