Stuck without medical treatment: The paradox of work comp

Group 152

Table of Contents

I have never been one to get on my soapbox and point fingers but this issue has been bugging me as of late. I assume this has been something plaintiffs attorneys have been dealing with since the dawn of man. How does an injured worker, who has been denied workers’ compensation benefits, who does not have health insurance or access to MinnesotaCare, receive proper medical treatment immediately following a work related injury?

The answer: They do not.

Over 47 million Americans and 34 million Hispanics are without health insurance. Of the 47 million Americans without insurance, 20% of them use the emergency room as there usual source of care. These means there is no preventative care and often times no further follow-up after the emergency room visit. It is quite clear that a large portion of the working population are without the ability to receive proper treatment regardless of the cause for the treatment.

If an injured worker is one of the few that can receive medical assistance through the state they are able to receive some treatment.  However, even with medical assistance, each visit, prescription, or medical good results in costly co-pays or premiums which can add up quickly. If the injured worker happens to be undocumented, they would automatically not be eligible for MinnesotaCare. It has been reported that over 59% of the nation’s illegal immigrants are uninsured.

As a result, if a work comp insurer denies an uninsured injured worker benefits following an injury, it very likely the injured worker will not get the proper medical treatment or care  In fact, it could be months before the injured worker seeks medical treatment or even contacts an attorney about filing for workers’ compensation benefits.  By that time, sufficient time has passed where it may be difficult for the medical professional to tie the work injury to the disability.  As well, you can be fairly certain the insurer will argue that the reason for the lack of treatment was that the injury was minor and resolved without any residual problems.

In cases where the injured worker does not have health insurance, the lack of medical treatment should be looked at closely when evaluating whether the injured worker has a work related disability and should not be automatically assumed the condition resolved.