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Will They Turn the Panel of Physician Into a Cyber Panel

Burdine & Brown Jan. 11, 2024

There is a crazy idea beginning to circulate among the major stakeholders in the Georgia
Workers’ Compensation system at the end of 2023: turn the panel of physician into a cyber panel
giving the insurance folks total control of the panel, changing it at their whim which will ensure
that all companies have the panel legally “posted” on the website of the employer.

Why would the insurers want to do this? Simply because now there will never be a situation
where the panel can be declared illegal, improper or incomplete. If so declared, then the workers
can find medical help off panel, anywhere he or she would like to get that treatment for their on
the job injury. A good and aggressive lawyer (and I hope I qualify as one) examines this issue in
every case.

Here is some background. The panel of doctors is a list of six doctors that, according to the
current law, MUST be posted in a conspicuous place on the employer’s premises that is always
readily accessible to the worker so the worker may choose where to get free treatment for their
job injury.

Assuming the worker is informed of the existence of the panel when he/she first begins to work
at the employer (and this a rarely the case) then the worker is required to pick from one of the six
doctors on the list to obtain free treatment for their job injury.

There are many times that an employer FAILS to post this panel at work. I love it! Without a
properly posted panel of physicians, I can demand that my client see any doctor qualified to treat
my client’s injuries in their workers’ compensation case because the employer violated the law.

Insurance companies are notorious for loading the doctor panel with horrible insurance doctors
who do not give a “rip” about the worker’s condition. Ironically, the horrible panel doctors who
delay and deny treatment to my clients is a major source of new workers’ compensation clients
for my law practice. Clients call me wondering why they must stick with their panel doctor. The
frustration, anxiety and feeling of resentment at the lack of quality of care provided by these
doctors is absolutely amazing (if not shameful). So maybe I should not be so concerned about the
doctor panels. No, that is not my response.

Did you know that only five states in the US continue to have a posted panel of doctors requiring
their injured workers to attend and treat with these marginally qualified doctors? Of course,
Georgia holds tightly to this aspect of the workers’ compensation laws of this state.

When I began my practice of law in 1979 in Atlanta, Georgia, the law required the employer to
post a panel that had only three doctors on it. Over time, the panel requirement changed to four
doctors and now the panel consists of six doctors, clinics, or hospitals.

I truly wish that if Georgia is going to keep this relic of the old days of labor law, the panel of
doctors should have fifty doctors on it. The more on the panel, the more likely I will find a decent doctor on it but certainly not with only six doctors and clinics.