(a) (1) On or after January 1, 2005, an insurer, employer, or entity that provides physician network services may establish or modify a medical provider network for the provision of medical treatment to injured employees. The network shall include physicians primarily engaged in the treatment of occupational injuries. The administrative director shall encourage the integration of occupational and nonoccupational providers. The number of physicians in the medical provider network shall be sufficient to enable treatment for injuries or conditions to be provided in a timely manner. The provider network shall include an adequate number and type of physicians, as described in Section 3209.3, or other providers, as described in Section 3209.5, to treat common injuries experienced by injured employees based on the type of occupation or industry in which the employee is engaged, and the geographic area where the employees are employed.
(2) Medical treatment for injuries shall be readily available at reasonable times to all employees. To the extent feasible, all medical treatment for injuries shall be readily accessible to all employees. With respect to availability and accessibility of treatment, the administrative director shall consider the needs of rural areas, specifically those in which health facilities are located at least 30 miles apart and areas in which there is a health care shortage.
(3) Commencing January 1, 2014, a treating physician shall be included in the network only if, at the time of entering into or renewing an agreement by which the physician would be in the network, the physician, or an authorized employee of the physician or the physician’s office, provides a separate written acknowledgment in which the physician affirmatively elects to be a member of the network. Copies of the written acknowledgment shall be provided to the administrative director upon the administrative director’s request. This paragraph shall not apply to a physician who is a shareholder, partner, or employee of a medical group that elects to be part of the network.
(4) (A) Commencing January 1, 2014, every medical provider network shall post on its Internet Web site a roster of all treating physicians in the medical provider network and shall update the roster at least quarterly. Every network shall provide to the administrative director the Internet Web site address of the network and of its roster of treating physicians. The administrative director shall post, on the division’s Internet Web site, the Internet Web site address of every approved medical provider network.
(B) Commencing January 1, 2016, every medical provider network shall post on its Internet Web site information about how to contact the medical provider network contact and medical access assistants, and information about how to obtain a copy of any notification regarding the medical provider network that is required to be given to an employee by regulations adopted by the administrative director.
(5) Commencing January 1, 2014, every medical provider network shall provide one or more persons within the United States to serve as medical access assistants to help an injured employee find an available physician of the employee’s choice, and subsequent physicians if necessary, under Section 4616.3. Medical access assistants shall have a toll-free telephone number that injured employees may use and shall be available at least from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, Monday through Saturday, inclusive, to respond to injured employees, contact physicians’ offices during regular business hours, and schedule appointments. The administrative director shall promulgate regulations on or before July 1, 2013, governing the provision of medical access assistants.
(b) (1) An insurer, employer, or entity that provides physician network services shall submit a plan for the medical provider network to the administrative director for approval. The administrative director shall approve the plan for a period of four years if he or she determines that the plan meets the requirements of this section. If the administrative director does not act on the plan within 60 days of submitting the plan, it shall be deemed approved. Commencing January 1, 2014, existing approved plans shall be deemed approved for a period of four years from the approval date of the most recent application or modification submitted prior to 2014. Plans for reapproval for medical provider networks shall be submitted at least six months before the expiration of the four-year approval period. Commencing January 1, 2016, a modification that updates an entire medical provider network plan to bring the plan into full compliance with all current statutes and regulations shall be deemed approved for a period of four years from the modification approval date. An approved modification that does not update an entire medical provider network plan to bring the plan into full compliance with all current statutes and regulations shall not alter the expiration of the medical provider network’s four-year approval period. Upon a showing that the medical provider network was approved or deemed approved by the administrative director, there shall be a conclusive presumption on the part of the appeals board that the medical provider network was validly formed.
(2) Every medical provider network shall establish and follow procedures to continuously review the quality of care, performance of medical personnel, utilization of services and facilities, and costs.
(3) Every medical provider network shall submit geocoding of its network for reapproval to establish that the number and geographic location of physicians in the network meets the required access standards.
(4) The administrative director shall at any time have the discretion to investigate complaints and to conduct random reviews of approved medical provider networks.
(5) Approval of a plan may be denied, revoked, or suspended if the medical provider network fails to meet the requirements of this article. Any person contending that a medical provider network is not validly constituted may petition the administrative director to suspend or revoke the approval of the medical provider network. The administrative director may adopt regulations establishing a schedule of administrative penalties not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) per violation, or probation, or both, in lieu of revocation or suspension for less severe violations of the requirements of this article. Penalties, probation, suspension, or revocation shall be ordered by the administrative director only after notice and opportunity to be heard. Unless suspended or revoked by the administrative director, the administrative director’s approval of a medical provider network shall be binding on all persons and all courts. A determination of the administrative director may be reviewed only by an appeal of the determination of the administrative director filed as an original proceeding before the reconsideration unit of the workers’ compensation appeals board on the same grounds and within the same time limits after issuance of the determination as would be applicable to a petition for reconsideration of a decision of a workers’ compensation administrative law judge.
(c) Physician compensation may not be structured in order to achieve the goal of reducing, delaying, or denying medical treatment or restricting access to medical treatment.
(d) If the employer or insurer meets the requirements of this section, the administrative director may not withhold approval or disapprove an employer’s or insurer’s medical provider network based solely on the selection of providers. In developing a medical provider network, an employer or insurer shall have the exclusive right to determine the members of their network.
(e) All treatment provided shall be provided in accordance with the medical treatment utilization schedule established pursuant to Section 5307.27.
(f) No person other than a licensed physician who is competent to evaluate the specific clinical issues involved in the medical treatment services, when these services are within the scope of the physician’s practice, may modify, delay, or deny requests for authorization of medical treatment.
(g) Commencing January 1, 2013, every contracting agent that sells, leases, assigns, transfers, or conveys its medical provider networks and their contracted reimbursement rates to an insurer, employer, entity that provides physician network services, or another contracting agent shall, upon entering or renewing a provider contract, disclose to the provider whether the medical provider network may be sold, leased, transferred, or conveyed to other insurers, employers, entities that provide physician network services, or another contracting agent, and specify whether those insurers, employers, entities that provide physician network services, or contracting agents include workers’ compensation insurers.
(h) On or before November 1, 2004, the administrative director, in consultation with the Department of Managed Health Care, shall adopt regulations implementing this article. The administrative director shall develop regulations that establish procedures for purposes of making medical provider network modifications.
(Amended by Stats. 2015, Ch. 542, Sec. 1. (SB 542) Effective January 1, 2016.)
Last modified: October 25, 2018