(a) This section applies to the following disputes:
(1) Any dispute over a utilization review decision regarding treatment for an injury occurring on or after January 1, 2013.
(2) Any dispute over a utilization review decision if the decision is communicated to the requesting physician on or after July 1, 2013, regardless of the date of injury.
(b) A dispute described in subdivision (a) shall be resolved only in accordance with this section.
(c) For purposes of this section and Section 4610.6, the following definitions apply:
(1) "Disputed medical treatment" means medical treatment that has been modified, delayed, or denied by a utilization review decision.
(2) "Medically necessary" and "medical necessity" mean medical treatment that is reasonably required to cure or relieve the injured employee of the effects of his or her injury and based on the following standards, which shall be applied in the order listed, allowing reliance on a lower ranked standard only if every higher ranked standard is inapplicable to the employee's medical condition:
(A) The guidelines adopted by the administrative director pursuant to Section 5307.27.
(B) Peer-reviewed scientific and medical evidence regarding the effectiveness of the disputed service.
(C) Nationally recognized professional standards.
(D) Expert opinion.
(E) Generally accepted standards of medical practice.
(F) Treatments that are likely to provide a benefit to a patient for conditions for which other treatments are not clinically efficacious.
(3) "Utilization review decision" means a decision pursuant to Section 4610 to modify, delay, or deny, based in whole or in part on medical necessity to cure or relieve, a treatment recommendation or recommendations by a physician prior to, retrospectively, or concurrent with, the provision of medical treatment services pursuant to Section 4600 or subdivision (c) of Section 5402.
(4) Unless otherwise indicated by context, "employer" means the employer, the insurer of an insured employer, a claims administrator, or a utilization review organization, or other entity acting on behalf of any of them.
(d) If a utilization review decision denies, modifies, or delays a treatment recommendation, the employee may request an independent medical review as provided by this section.
(e) A utilization review decision may be reviewed or appealed only by independent medical review pursuant to this section. Neither the employee nor the employer shall have any liability for medical treatment furnished without the authorization of the employer if the treatment is delayed, modified, or denied by a utilization review decision unless the utilization review decision is overturned by independent medical review in accordance with this section.
(f) As part of its notification to the employee regarding an initial utilization review decision that denies, modifies, or delays a treatment recommendation, the employer shall provide the employee with a form not to exceed two pages, prescribed by the administrative director, and an addressed envelope, which the employee may return to the administrative director or the administrative director's designee to initiate an independent medical review. The employer shall include on the form any information required by the administrative director to facilitate the completion of the independent medical review. The form shall also include all of the following:
(1) Notice that the utilization review decision is final unless the employee requests independent medical review.
(2) A statement indicating the employee's consent to obtain any necessary medical records from the employer or insurer and from any medical provider the employee may have consulted on the matter, to be signed by the employee.
(3) Notice of the employee's right to provide information or documentation, either directly or through the employee's physician, regarding the following:
(A) The treating physician's recommendation indicating that the disputed medical treatment is medically necessary for the employee's medical condition.
(B) Medical information or justification that a disputed medical treatment, on an urgent care or emergency basis, was medically necessary for the employee's medical condition.
(C) Reasonable information supporting the employee's position that the disputed medical treatment is or was medically necessary for the employee's medical condition, including all information provided to the employee by the employer or by the treating physician, still in the employee's possession, concerning the employer's or the physician's decision regarding the disputed medical treatment, as well as any additional material that the employee believes is relevant.
(g) The independent medical review process may be terminated at any time upon the employer's written authorization of the disputed medical treatment.
(h) (1) The employee may submit a request for independent medical review to the division no later than 30 days after the service of the utilization review decision to the employee.
(2) If at the time of a utilization review decision the employer is also disputing liability for the treatment for any reason besides medical necessity, the time for the employee to submit a request for independent medical review to the administrative director or administrative director's designee is extended to 30 days after service of a notice to the employee showing that the other dispute of liability has been resolved.
(3) If the employer fails to comply with subdivision (f) at the time of notification of its utilization review decision, the time limitations for the employee to submit a request for independent medical review shall not begin to run until the employer provides the required notice to the employee.
(4) A provider of emergency medical treatment when the employee faced an imminent and serious threat to his or her health, including, but not limited to, the potential loss of life, limb, or other major bodily function, may submit a request for independent medical review on its own behalf. A request submitted by a provider pursuant to this paragraph shall be submitted to the administrative director or administrative director's designee within the time limitations applicable for an employee to submit a request for independent medical review.
(i) An employer shall not engage in any conduct that has the effect of delaying the independent review process. Engaging in that conduct or failure of the employer to promptly comply with this section 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 that proper notification to the employee is delayed. The administrative penalties shall be paid to the Workers' Compensation Administration Revolving Fund.
(j) For purposes of this section, an employee may designate a parent, guardian, conservator, relative, or other designee of the employee as an agent to act on his or her behalf. A designation of an agent executed prior to the utilization review decision shall not be valid. The requesting physician may join with or otherwise assist the employee in seeking an independent medical review, and may advocate on behalf of the employee.
(k) The administrative director or his or her designee shall expeditiously review requests and immediately notify the employee and the employer in writing as to whether the request for an independent medical review has been approved, in whole or in part, and, if not approved, the reasons therefor. If there appears to be any medical necessity issue, the dispute shall be resolved pursuant to an independent medical review, except that, unless the employer agrees that the case is eligible for independent medical review, a request for independent medical review shall be deferred if at the time of a utilization review decision the employer is also disputing liability for the treatment for any reason besides medical necessity.
(l) Upon notice from the administrative director that an independent review organization has been assigned, the employer shall provide to the independent medical review organization all of the following documents within 10 days of notice of assignment:
(1) A copy of all of the employee's medical records in the possession of the employer or under the control of the employer relevant to each of the following:
(A) The employee's current medical condition.
(B) The medical treatment being provided by the employer.
(C) The disputed medical treatment requested by the employee.
(2) A copy of all information provided to the employee by the employer concerning employer and provider decisions regarding the disputed treatment.
(3) A copy of any materials the employee or the employee's provider submitted to the employer in support of the employee's request for the disputed treatment.
(4) A copy of any other relevant documents or information used by the employer or its utilization review organization in determining whether the disputed treatment should have been provided, and any statements by the employer or its utilization review organization explaining the reasons for the decision to deny, modify, or delay the recommended treatment on the basis of medical necessity. The employer shall concurrently provide a copy of the documents required by this paragraph to the employee and the requesting physician, except that documents previously provided to the employee or physician need not be provided again if a list of those documents is provided.
(m) Any newly developed or discovered relevant medical records in the possession of the employer after the initial documents are provided to the independent medical review organization shall be forwarded immediately to the independent medical review organization. The employer shall concurrently provide a copy of medical records required by this subdivision to the employee or the employee's treating physician, unless the offer of medical records is declined or otherwise prohibited by law. The confidentiality of medical records shall be maintained pursuant to applicable state and federal laws.
(n) If there is an imminent and serious threat to the health of the employee, as specified in subdivision (c) of Section 1374.33 of the Health and Safety Code, all necessary information and documents required by subdivision (l) shall be delivered to the independent medical review organization within 24 hours of approval of the request for review.
(o) The employer shall promptly issue a notification to the employee, after submitting all of the required material to the independent medical review organization, that lists documents submitted and includes copies of material not previously provided to the employee or the employee's designee.
(Amended by Stats. 2014, Ch. 217, Sec. 2.)