IME's reined in by New York State legislature

Author Subject: IME's reined in by New York State legislature
Del Posted At 13:50:45 07/03/2000

'Independent' Medical Examiners reined in by New York State legislature

The New York State legislature enacted legislation establishing regulations to cover the qualifications and activities of so-called "independent medical examiners" (IMEs). "This legislation aims to eliminate some horrible abuses of the IME system," remarked Assembly member Catherine Nolan, chair of the Assembly Labor Committee. "Under the old law IMEs were virtually unregulated. The insurance companies could pick unqualified IMEs and then doctor their reports. I'm happy to say this law will help put a stop to such outrageous conduct."

Under the existing law, insurance companies frequently require workers who file workers' compensation claims to have an "independent medical examination." Because the original law included very few specifics about the qualifications or activities of IMEs, injured workers found that the system was rife with abuse, such as doctors submitting opinions concerning medical specialities that they were not qualified to practice, IMEs refusing to give a copy of their report to the claimant, and IME reports being altered by the insurance companies before being submitted to the Workers' Compensation Board. Also as a result of these so-called "examinations" conducted by doctors hired by insurance companies, insurance companies cut wage replacement benefits and deny medical treatment to workers without a hearing.

The widespread abuse of the IME system was documented in a 1998 report: "Unjust Treatment: ‘Independent' Medical Examinations & Workers Compensation in New York State," which was prepared by the New York State AFL-CIO and NYCOSH. The legislation, which came in response to the report, will outlaw many of the abuses the report identified.

The legislation includes an unrelated section, which relaxes the legal restrictions on State Insurance Fund investments of any surplus funds. Under the existing system, the State Insurance Fund can only invest its surplus funds in bank deposits and other ultra-safe securities. If the Governor signs the new law, the State Insurance Fund will have the authority to put its money in the stock market.

-- From the June 22, 2000 NYCOSH Update on Safety and Health

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