Your rights in the workplace: designating a physician before you are injured at work

Starting January 1, 2005, California employers will have more power to control medical care for injured workers, due to the new workers’ comp bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. An injured worker used to be able to choose any doctor after the first month of treatment is completed. After January 1, if you are injured on the job, you will have to pick from a pool of doctors who belong to tightly controlled physician networks organized by employers and their insurers.

That is, unless you “predesignate” your physician. Employers who provide group health insurance, as UC does, must allow you to choose your doctor to treat your injury, but only if you submit a personal physician form to your employer. Even if you have previously completed such a form, do it again because the laws have changed.

The physician must agree to be predesignated, have previously treated you, and be in possession of your medical records. There is currently a legal debate about whether your physician must actually sign the form designating him or her as your treating physician. But don't delay. Fill out this form and send it in -- with your doctor's signature if possible to protect you from any changes that may arise around the interpretation of the new workers' comp law. Give it to your departmental human resources manager, and keep a copy for yourself.

If you need more information or help, contact your local UPTE representative.