July 23, 2018
Most of us who use electronic banking and paperless payment systems take the ease of those systems for granted. But if you’re an Illinois physician who treats injured workers under the Illinois workers’ compensation system, you’ll be using the technological equivalent of an abacus to provide treatment and get paid.
Here is your doctor’s reality in 2018: There is no digital solution to process a workers’ compensation claim. If you get hurt on the job, they’ll have to work entirely within a system that depends on snail mail. That potentially means longer for your treatment to get approved and even longer for your physician to be compensated for that treatment.
Who’s behind this situated? Powerful, and extremely profitable, worker’s compensation insurers who are not converting their processes to electronic systems or even paying late interest required by law. Most companies in Illinois freely demand that a physician send by mail or even by fax, paper versions of medical records, physician notes, and other important documents before they will authorize your treatment, or eventual payment for their services to help you get well.
And when all of that paper finally has been exchanged through the slog of USPS delivery or by fax, sometimes missing their receipt repeatedly along the way, eventual payment comes by a paper check.
Do workers’ compensation insurers hate technology? Not necessarily. But paper systems can take longer and, trigger something known in banking as the “float.” Float happens during that magical time when funds in an insurer’s accounts await the full process of claims approval, earning interest every day. Paper makes the float even more magical when forms are slowed in delivery or get lost along the way, sometimes for weeks, months, or years.
There’s a way to fix it: Illinois governor Bruce Rauner’s signature on SB 904, a bill passed in May with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the Illinois House and Senate. The bill would force workers’ compensation insurance companies finally to use electronic billing systems that would speed treatment and doctors’ pay.
So what’s the hold up? Workers’ compensation insurance companies, with backing from Illinois’ business group say the legislation creates unfair penalties for “simple non-compliance” with the law.
Failure to sign SB 904 may restrict that physician access at a time when we need care most of all.
Katherine M. Tynus, MD
President of the Illinois State Medical Society
July 23, 2018