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Don’t Miss the Crossover Issues

Crossover issues are not strictly workers compensation issues– which is why they are sometimes overlooked. That omission can cost a party money or even lead to a professional malpractice suit. Third Party Claims
Product liability, medical malpractice, and negligent roadway design are examples of third party claims usually unaffected by the exclusive remedy rule. Collisions may give rise to the most common third party claim.

SSDI
Whether and when to apply for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) are not simple decisions. Federal law is written to make sure a disabled person does not earn more when not working than the person did on the job. The “80% rule” limits the combined total of SSDI and indemnity payments to an injured worker. This rule principally affects lower wage earners.

Medicare/Medi-Cal
Virtually all workers compensation professionals recognize the need for a Medicare Set-Aside in appropriate cases. Correct self-administration remains a challenge. Additionally, practitioners should be aware that two forms of Medi-Cal currently exist: traditional and expanded. Savvy negotiators can often use these programs to create a safety net to cover the injured worker’s medical expenses as part of a Compromise & Release completely closing the claim. C&Rs drafted without considering Medi-Cal issues could imperil medical care for the injured worker and the injured worker’s entire family.

Immigration
Undocumented injured workers are eligible for workers compensation benefits in California. Some undocumented workers have been in their jobs for decades. They remain under the legal radar until a workplace injury occurs. At that point, a false or stolen identity may come to light, creating issues for the injured worker and the employer. The Patriot Act’s provisions about identification required to open a bank account or to send money out of the country can also interfere with an injured worker’s decision to choose a Compromise & Release.

Tax
The tax code provides that money received on account of a physical injury is not taxable. Usually all payments made on a workers compensation claim arise from a physical injury. However, a number of circumstances could trigger taxation. Also, once an injured worker receives a buy-out, earnings on invested or banked sums are taxable.

Get Help
Workers compensation professionals should recognize crossover issues, and counsel should alert clients when these issues appear. The next step could be to bring in an expert in that area, provide one or more referrals, or advise clients to seek professional advice on their own.

How Medical Identity Theft Affects Claim Resolution

Medical identity theft occurs when a thief obtains treatment using the victim’s social security number or health insurance identification number. Authorities also report arrests of care providers who have stolen medical identities and submitted bills for treatment they never performed.  Cyber-attacks on medical data have produced a market for this kind of information.
Treatment 
A theft victim’s biggest risk is improper medical treatment due to provider reliance on an incorrect medical history. The victim could end up with a transfusion of the wrong blood type, an incorrect prescription, or ineffective treatment tailored to the wrong facts. If inappropriate treatment of an industrial injury results in the need for further medical care, the additional care will also be an industrial treatment expense.

Payment for Treatment 
Injured workers may not know their medical identity was stolen until their treatment request is denied. When medical records show non-industrial causation of the subject condition, a carrier may deny treatment. Records might also show a prior industrial claim for the condition now under review. If the injured worker denies such prior treatment, medical identity theft could be the cause of the discrepancy.

When an injured worker claims medical identity theft is the reason for a record of prior treatment, record reviewers should pay close attention to notes of contact information for the patient and family members, height, weight, age, and other telltale features which could confirm or weaken a claim of medical identity theft.

Employers facing a claim of medical identity theft will have to use a rule of reason and tread carefully. As with other denials, once the injured worker starts treating non-industrially, the employer loses control of the treatment and may end up paying much more than if the condition had been treated within the Medical Provider Network.

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Apportionment
When the injured worker sustained a prior disabling injury, the percentage of disability payable on the current claim will be apportioned. But what if that prior injury was to someone else using the current claimant’s identity? Parties will need evidence about the prior injury and treatment including the injured worker’s actual location and activities on the relevant dates.

Liens
Given the market penetration of some medical providers (such as Express Scripts), a claim could trigger issues relating to bills incurred for stolen treatment. CMS might respond to a submission for MSA approval with a reimbursement request for treatment provided to the thief.

Separating Medical Record Histories
The identity theft victim will bear the burden of cleaning up the medical record history, including notification to care providers, credit agencies and possibly law enforcement officials. This task is another source of stress at what is already a stressful time for an injured worker.

The employer needs a complete medical history relating to the industrial injury and usually obtains the relevant records by subpoena. Once the theft is discovered, new privacy issues may arise in obtaining those records.

What If The Injured Worker Is The Thief?
Sometimes an undocumented worker avoids detection until there is an industrial injury. Medical treatment planning can disclose a medical history at odds with the known facts of the injured worker’s life. In California, the injured worker will be entitled to treatment of the industrial injury. As with the identity theft victim, disentangling the two medical histories can complicate the treatment plan.