Until an ad hoc committee of the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council makes a report on health-care fees as they relate to workers' compensation in Utah, the State Industrial Commission won't consider an increase in fees to physicians who treat injured workers.
Commission Chairman Stephen M. Hadley said the committee is scheduled to submit a report next year, which means the commission won't consider a 6 percent fee increase suggested by its Medical Fee Advisory Committee.Hadley apologized to Dr. Boyd G. Holbrook, chairman of the fee advisory committee, for not making some kind of an adjustment in the fees paid to doctors who treat injured workers, but he said he felt the work of the ad hoc committee was of such importance that a decision should be delayed.
In requesting that a decision be delayed, Commissioner Dixie Minson said the commission must look at the entire workers' compensation picture and not just the impact on the medical profession. Commissioner Tom Carlson said he is reluctant to delay a decision but will go along with Hadley and Minson to wait until June 1991 to make a decision.
Lawrence Mills, an attorney and chairman of the ad hoc committee, said the group has been meeting for one month, but it has much work to do to issue a report next April.
In recommending the 6 percent increase in physician fees, Holbrook said physician services are less costly in Utah and almost any state, yet the quality is the highest that can be given.
He said Utah physicians have gracefully accepted what they considered inadequate payment over the years for treating injured workers.
"This committee does not believe that the level of fees should be those generated by physician charges but rather by fees that are reasonably appropriate to the degree of services rendered considering the time the service requires, the education and training required for those services, the risk to the patient and the physician and the overhead cost to the physician including very high malpractice insurance," Holbrook said.
The commission did approve a 15 percent "stocking fee" to physicians who provide specialty equipment used in the treatment of patients. This includes braces and devices that can immediately be used on a patient, but excludes the small items used in a doctor's office.
There is considerable cost in ordering, stocking and dispensing the materials that are paid for by the physician on delivery. Medical equipment providers usually mark up these items 100 percent, so it is advantageous to workers' compensation insurance providers to pay the lesser amount, Holbrook said.