(a) Upon receipt of a case pursuant to Section 4610.5, an independent medical review organization shall conduct the review in accordance with this article and any regulations or orders of the administrative director. The organization’s review shall be limited to an examination of the medical necessity of the disputed medical treatment.
(b) Upon receipt of information and documents related to a case, the medical reviewer or reviewers selected to conduct the review by the independent medical review organization shall promptly review all pertinent medical records of the employee, provider reports, and any other information submitted to the organization or requested from any of the parties to the dispute by the reviewers. If the reviewers request information from any of the parties, a copy of the request and the response shall be provided to all of the parties. The reviewer or reviewers shall also review relevant information related to the criteria set forth in subdivision (c).
(c) Following its review, the reviewer or reviewers shall determine whether the disputed health care service was medically necessary based on the specific medical needs of the employee and the standards of medical necessity as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 4610.5.
(d) (1) The organization shall complete its review and make its determination in writing, and in layperson’s terms to the maximum extent practicable, and the determination shall be issued, as follows:
(A) For a dispute over medication prescribed pursuant to the drug formulary submitted under subdivision (h) of Section 4610.5, within five working days from the date of receipt of the request for review and supporting documentation, or within less time as prescribed by the administrative director.
(B) For all other medical treatment disputes submitted for review under subdivision (h) of Section 4610.5, within 30 days of receipt of the request for review and supporting documentation, or within less time as prescribed by the administrative director.
(C) If the disputed medical treatment has not been provided and the employee’s provider or the administrative director certifies in writing that an imminent and serious threat to the health of the employee may exist, including, but not limited to, serious pain, the potential loss of life, limb, or major bodily function, or the immediate and serious deterioration of the health of the employee, the analyses and determinations of the reviewers shall be expedited and rendered within three days of the receipt of the information.
(2) Subject to the approval of the administrative director, the deadlines for analyses and determinations involving both regular and expedited reviews may be extended for up to three days in extraordinary circumstances or for good cause.
(e) The medical professionals’ analyses and determinations shall state whether the disputed health care service is medically necessary. Each analysis shall cite the employee’s medical condition, the relevant documents in the record, and the relevant findings associated with the provisions of subdivision (c) to support the determination. If more than one medical professional reviews the case, the recommendation of the majority shall prevail. If the medical professionals reviewing the case are evenly split as to whether the disputed health care service should be provided, the decision shall be in favor of providing the service.
(f) The independent medical review organization shall provide the administrative director, the employer, the employee, and the employee’s provider with the analyses and determinations of the medical professionals reviewing the case, and a description of the qualifications of the medical professionals. The independent medical review organization shall keep the names of the reviewers confidential in all communications with entities or individuals outside the independent medical review organization. If more than one medical professional reviewed the case and the result was differing determinations, the independent medical review organization shall provide each of the separate reviewer’s analyses and determinations.
(g) The determination of the independent medical review organization shall be deemed to be the determination of the administrative director and shall be binding on all parties.
(h) A determination of the administrative director pursuant to this section may be reviewed only by a verified appeal from the medical review determination of the administrative director, filed with the appeals board for hearing pursuant to Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 5500) of Part 4 and served on all interested parties within 30 days of the date of mailing of the determination to the aggrieved employee or the aggrieved employer. The determination of the administrative director shall be presumed to be correct and shall be set aside only upon proof by clear and convincing evidence of one or more of the following grounds for appeal:
(1) The administrative director acted without or in excess of the administrative director’s powers.
(2) The determination of the administrative director was procured by fraud.
(3) The independent medical reviewer was subject to a material conflict of interest that is in violation of Section 139.5.
(4) The determination was the result of bias on the basis of race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color, or disability.
(5) The determination was the result of a plainly erroneous express or implied finding of fact, provided that the mistake of fact is a matter of ordinary knowledge based on the information submitted for review pursuant to Section 4610.5 and not a matter that is subject to expert opinion.
(i) If the determination of the administrative director is reversed, the dispute shall be remanded to the administrative director to submit the dispute to independent medical review by a different independent review organization. In the event that a different independent medical review organization is not available after remand, the administrative director shall submit the dispute to the original medical review organization for review by a different reviewer in the organization. In no event shall a workers’ compensation administrative law judge, the appeals board, or any higher court make a determination of medical necessity contrary to the determination of the independent medical review organization.
(j) Upon receiving the determination of the administrative director that a disputed health care service is medically necessary, the employer shall promptly implement the decision as provided by this section unless the employer has also disputed liability for any reason besides medical necessity. In the case of reimbursement for services already rendered, the employer shall reimburse the provider or employee, whichever applies, within 20 days, subject to resolution of any remaining issue of the amount of payment pursuant to Sections 4603.2 to 4603.6, inclusive. In the case of services not yet rendered, the employer shall authorize the services within five working days of receipt of the written determination from the independent medical review organization, or sooner if appropriate for the nature of the employee’s medical condition, and shall inform the employee and provider of the authorization.
(k) Failure to pay for services already provided or to authorize services not yet rendered within the time prescribed by subdivision (l) is a violation of this section and, in addition to any other fines, penalties, and other remedies available to the administrative director, the employer shall be subject to an administrative penalty in an amount determined pursuant to regulations to be adopted by the administrative director, not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each day the decision is not implemented. The administrative penalties shall be paid to the Workers’ Compensation Administration Revolving Fund.
(l) The costs of independent medical review and the administration of the independent medical review system shall be borne by employers through a fee system established by the administrative director. After considering any relevant information on program costs, the administrative director shall establish a reasonable, per-case reimbursement schedule to pay the costs of independent medical review organization reviews and the cost of administering the independent medical review system, which may vary depending on the type of medical condition under review and on other relevant factors.
(m) The administrative director may publish the results of independent medical review determinations after removing individually identifiable information.
(n) If any provision of this section, or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, is held invalid, the remainder of the section, and the application of its provisions to other persons or circumstances, shall not be affected thereby.
(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 868, Sec. 6. (SB 1160) Effective January 1, 2017.)
Last modified: October 25, 2018