New in Illinois workers’ compensation news: Travelers Insurance Company is adding “Telemedicine” features to their workers’ comp insurance. (Travelers Insurance happens to be one of the big workers’ comp insurance companies that handles claims in Illinois.) In an article on Business Wire (https://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/) posted on April 16, 2018, the new features are described, including the ability to have doctor appointments via a secure video session on a cell phone or computer. The article proceeds to boast about the supposed benefits of such a feature, including that it could cost less money than emergency room visits. This is presented with the more diplomatic phrase insurance companies love: “cost-effective.”
What does “cost-effective” really mean for an injured worker? The phrase brings us to the number one concentration with a workers’ comp insurance company, and the only thing they truly care about (Hint: It is NOT you, the injured worker): The bottom line. The article can attempt to dress it up and make it sound like it is purely for the benefit of the injured worker, but even if there are situations that would benefit from the “Telemedicine” or video doctor visit feature, there is no doubt that this would only ever be approved in any insurance company after it was analyzed to be “cost-effective.”
What is perhaps more frightening about “Telemedicine” as a feature in work comp is this: It gives the insurance company another tool for CONTROL. If any injured worker is tempted to use “Telemedicine” and “see” a doctor of the choice of workers’ comp, then an injured worker is quickly taken under the control of the work comp carrier. By having a new shiny tool that can offer the “convenience” (or temptation) of not having to leave home or a job site to see the doctor the insurance company wants you to see, the insurance company now has a new weapon in its arsenal to keep the costs down for injured workers’ claims.
It is highly likely that soon—if not already—Travelers Insurance Company and countless others will be jumping on injured workers and tempting them with the “easy and helpful” video conference to the medical provider of work comp’s choice.
The first thing in injured worker should understand is he has the right to remain silent, and that includes giving a statement to a claim adjuster or anyone else who is paid by the insurance company, including “Telemedicine” doctors and nurses that are assigned to your case. Any injured worker in an Illinois workers’ compensation case needs to understand that his choice of doctors is limited by the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act. The best, short version advice is this: An injured worker’s first phone call after receiving emergency medical assistance in a hospital emergency room should be to an attorney for a free consultation. And no matter what: ALWAYS remember that insurance companies will try to control the medical care, until they are able to back the injured worker into a corner, and force some type of minimal settlement down the throat of the injured worker. This can be avoided, and you can fight back, with proper legal representation.