Exams of injured workers often one-sided

Posted on May 04, 2010

The New York Times recently investigated the independent medical examiners within the state workers' compensation system; the doctors who decide who is injured and who is not. They are often the most disputed component of New York state's system and are used more there than in any other state.


An independent exam is called upon by insurance companies because it is intended to "flush out" workers who are exaggerating the extent of their injuries or who are seeking care that may be unnecessary. These reports have the tendency to benefit insurers over the injured by minimizing or even dismissing injuries as nonexistent. 


Independent medical examiners do not need special training, just a state medical license and a specialty. The majority of medical examiners are semi-retired, older physicians who no longer see any other patients. 


Many feel that these physicians have ceased to be neutral and have picked a side. Workers can contest the opinions of independent medical examiners and are often successful. Judges frequently dismiss the medical examiner's findings. 


Medical examiners often see dozens of injured workers a day,  and for many, the exams only last a few minutes. Doctors feel that they are pressured to produce a quantity of reports over quality and claim they rarely have time to check the accuracy of their reports.


For many years, these exams went unmonitored. However, recent rules allow workers to videotape exams and bring along a witness of their choosing. However, this practice is rarely promoted or encouraged, especially by the physicians. When videotapes are taken, they more often than not reveal discrepancies between exams and written reports sent to insurance companies. 

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