WORKERS COMPENSATION AND THE INEVITABLE UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE
By Jill Cohen Walker, J.D.
I’ve been trying to get some long overdue columns written, but for eight months I’ve been a wounded combatant in a dual workers’ compensation battle involving upper and lower body injuries (making typing, among other activities, quite painful). The first injury was bad enough, but what I thought was repetitive trauma to my feet is a triple nightmare involving my low back and ankles as well.
The nervous system is like the NYC subway system, with peripheral nerves all connecting. In my case, pain travels along several tracks. But don’t tell that to the local neurosurgeon, a gun hired by the insurance company to find in their favor. That guy didn’t just prejudge my case in violation of medical ethics; he walked into the exam room, looked at my chart, rolled his eyes, and shook his head. Kind of like hoping a Nazi doctor won’t send you to the “showers.”
I couldn’t say a word, even when asked a question, couldn’t leave the room, couldn’t tell this maven of medicine to take a flying leap off a moving Ferris wheel. Reality check: I haven’t had so much fun since the pig ate my little brother. That must be why I broke down in tears when the visit was over. The witness I brought with me was appalled by the way I was treated and shared her observations with the workers’ comp rep. who controls that case. He told her it didn’t matter. The doctor’s word is “gospel.”
The original orthopedist on the upper body case was also adept at intimidation. To top it off, his assistant misquoted me regarding the date of the “foot” injury, which the doctor wasn’t even authorized to treat, let alone investigate. In fact, the insurance company “forbid” him from looking at or even diagnosing the foot problem, and the doctor said, “I don’t treat feet.”
Does the workers’ comp rep care that the dates are erroneous and that the doctor had no authority over this injury? Of course not! The doctor’s record, no matter how skewed and, quite frankly, illegal, is also “gospel.” I could swear on stacks of Bibles and send in an under-oath affidavit contesting the doctor’s notes and it wouldn’t matter one flip. Further, no matter which doctor you see, the opinions of the insurance company’s panel doctors are the only ones that matter; and they always find someone with lots of clout to intimidate you and douse the flames of truth.
In a day and age when medical information is available with the stroke of a computer key, we are still defined as the ignorant masses. You cannot be proactive in your own medical treatment because you must cooperate (like a robot) with a system that has fallen totally into the hands of the government. Workers’ compensation puts injured workers under the “Big Brother is watching you” microscope. Many are abused and mistreated with no ability to fight back. Make one out-of-line remark, or ask one question, and the insurance company or workers’ compensation rep might go ballistic.
Challenge a doctor regarding his diagnosis and/or treatment plan and s/he will report you as hostile and uncooperative whereby the “experts” at workers’ comp can render your case meaningless. Do it their way or suffer for the rest of your life, especially if you have no medical benefits and no income to pay a doctor of your choosing.
The injury to my neck, shoulder, and elbow is still in play because the workers’ comp rep ruled it was work-related. The feet, ankles, and lower back, however, will not be treated though some of the tasks that caused the “treatable” injury also caused the ones they won’t treat. Houdini couldn’t have done a better severing me in half.
In quasi-medical lingo, the low back impacted on the feet and ankles, which is where I felt the pain first. I’m not talking about sore feet, I’m talking about debilitating, out of the ballpark numbness and pain that struck on a particular day during the same 11-day period I was doing work that caused the upper body injury. I’m talking about pain that still makes walking, sitting, and standing loathsome activities. I wasn’t in this condition when I started the job. I had no low back pain, no ankle pain, and no foot pain until almost five months later.
Word of caution: Never underestimate the power of the radiologist, who read my MRI screens and decided my two lumbar bulging discs, two desiccated discs, and one small herniated disc are all degenerative in nature, not the result of lifting close to a thousand pounds in 11 days. Did I tell you I’m only 5’3” tall and weighed about 128 pounds at the time?
Reality check: The MRI rating scale to determine injury isn’t the same in workers’ comp cases as in private cases. The radiologist, paid by the insurance company, uses a grid. If the disc doesn’t fit into the grid, you have no injury and the radiologist will say you have a degenerative condition that’s not work related. Well, if I’m so degenerated (unbeknownst to me regarding the low back), then all the lifting, squatting, standing, bending, stooping, and walking should have caused the very problems involved in the lower body case.
Workers’ compensation does not preclude filing a claim if you have a pre-existing condition. Sometimes we don’t know we have them. Your employer takes you as he hires you and the manager who hired me knew I had a neck problem. I have a handicapped license plate that was in full view in the restaurant’s parking lot.
The insurance company doesn’t mind treating the upper body case because when it comes to settling up, they’ll claim they fixed everything beyond the original problem. Right . . . and I have a bridge to sell them in the Sahara Desert. But the lower body case is a problem because it’s more costly, might require surgery, and some of the problems are new and happened on the job.
Here’s another viable issue: Insurance companies like Auto-Owners (insurers of my former employer, Fazoli’s, the restaurant that recently scored 62 on a health inspection) don’t want the foot injury case because too many workers spend long hours on their feet doing a multitude of tasks that can and do injure the body in various ways. This could be costly to Corporate America and its insurers. My “foot” case could put a crimp on corporations that have cement or tile flooring as so many do. Corporate American doesn’t care about ergonomics in the workplace; they only care about easy-to-clean flooring.
Since Auto-Owners Insurers, their doctors, and the workers’ comp rep have annihilated my “foot” case, I will only receive treatment for the upper body injuries, which means the upper body won’t get better (remember, the subway system of nerves). I guess they want me to hold my head up well when I’m sitting in a wheelchair. Or maybe they want me to have arm strength to turn the wheels.
What they really want is a magic bullet that will stop the pain so I’ll go away. I’ve seen a lot of pill pushing and “let’s give her an epidural shot in her neck,” but no effort to truly fix the injuries. I’m allergic to a smorgasbord of drugs, and most pain pills for neuropathy are wrapped into mind control drugs, e.g., Cymbalta, Lyrica, Neurontin, among others. As the ads on television state: “Depression hurts everywhere.”
Give me a break! I don’t hurt because I’m depressed. I hurt because of a “collision” with excessive amounts of pasta and moving boxes in a shed to find the stuff I needed to make the restaurant function. Depression didn’t cause my pain, injury to my body caused the pain. And I don’t want to be a drug addict because I worked at Fazoli’s.
Another significant issue is that of business insurance and its impact on the system that was supposed to protect workers. Doctors don’t just have medical malpractice insurance. They have business insurance just like any other business. What happens when a doctor winds up on a workers’ compensation panel for an insurance company through which s/he is insured? Sounds like a major conflict of interest to me.
It gets worse. One doctor is on so many panels that he won’t see self-pay patients who need second opinions. These guys are making a killing off the workers’ compensation system by selling out the people the system was created to protect. This is not a pity party or just personal opinion. I’ve called every doctor from here to Nashville and the new mantra is, “We don’t take self-pay patients, especially if you’re already involved in a workers’ compensation case.” End of discussion.
Notwithstanding legislation to the contrary, the workers’ comp reps claim they must be, most laughably, unbiased representatives of the state who determine if an injury occurred, and the nature and extent of the benefits I receive, though they’ve never seen me and are not medical professionals.
So much for the intent and purpose of workers’ compensation. The state makes its determinations based on the reports of doctors’ hired by the insurance companies to find nothing wrong. Those doctors can spin it any way they want and nothing another doctor says matters. The Lord Jesus could confront them with the truth over a morning cup of coffee and it wouldn’t make a fig of difference if Dr. BoughtNPaidFor says otherwise.
More legislation won’t fix this problem. Our “best legislative minds” came up with this mess in the first place. Imagine the bureaucratic nightmare the “fix” will be. Meanwhile your civil right to free speech and to advocate for yourself isn’t permitted in workers’ comp claims. Remind me to thank the elected officials who said they were for the little guys but created a system that does nothing to protect them.
This is the work of government regulated insurance companies and workers’ compensation boards who want to protect local businesses rather than treat injured workers. “We the people” better stay healthy because our government “of, by, and for the people” is almost an antiquity.
Workers’ comp foreshadows bad things to come. God help us if our “elected leaders” ever adopt universal health care programs like the ones the UN, WHO and the rest of the NWO cabal have tried to foist on us for years. Those are the folks who only want 500 million people on the planet. Suffer a work-related injury and you just might find yourself taking a waterless shower or with a blade over your neck.
Workers’ compensation is socialized medicine—a compromise to avoid lengthy and costly litigation and keep the local Chambers of Commerce happy. How can a state attract new businesses if the volume of legitimate workers’ comp claims escalates? And in a state like Tennessee, workers’ comp doesn’t protect injured workers from wrongful dismissal because this is a “right to hire and fire” state. Your boss can toss you out the door with no reason or notice at all, injured or not.
Sterling example: a local chiropractor told me about a woman who normally worked out in the warehouse area of her company. A week or so ago she was told to load heavy boxes in the freezer area. The combination of the cold temperature and the weight of the boxes caused her to suffer a back injury. She wasn’t allowed to report the injury, she was fired.
Final reality check: The good liberal lawyers in this town that didn’t want my cases because their cut might not be enough to put their children through Harvard or Yale are hypocrites. Their callousness has created my new reality: I can’t afford to represent myself. Filing fees are high and depositions cost money as do expert witnesses. Additionally, the managing physician on the case hasn’t released me to work, and acting as my own attorney is not only the stuff fools do, it’s work I’m not supposed to do.
In anticipation of the day when I will not feel pain (may the Lord not tarry) and my injuries are no longer life-altering issues, it’s time I show my humble appreciation for those who did their jobs well and were truly concerned with my medical well being. Conversely, I want to “thank” those who traumatized me over the past eight months. Here goes . . .
My heartfelt thanks to the chiropractor (and his staff) who took over the upper body case when the orthopedist rode off into the sunset. He was courageous and honest in his treatment of me, and his willingness to stand by his convictions was the only light in a dark and daunting system. The aquatic therapy team at a local rehab hospital was quite good, understood my frustrations, and tried their best to help correct some of the injuries I sustained on the job. I pray you will all be blessed as you have blessed me. Unfortunately, they were stopped midstream (no pun intended) by Auto-Owners Insurance and the “expert” at workers’ comp. Evil never wants to do right by us.
To the others involved in what they call medical “care,” and who taught me how nasty workers’ compensation doctors can be, I say you are all to be pitied. In my heart I know I wasn’t the first to experience your overblown egos, and punishing natures, and I won’t be the last. To this end, I weep for the insurance folks who buy lies rather than honor truth. They are experts at human destruction.
Finally, those handling my cases at the Workers’ Comp Board certainly were unbiased. One called me a liar, tore me apart emotionally, and left me to wander around with little or no support. The other turned his back on me and left me without a viable legal remedy or medical resources for the lower half of my short body . . . not even a wheelchair.
I pray God will be merciful, but I know those who inflict such harm on others eventually reap as they have sown. What goes around usually comes around . . . sooner or later.
© 2006 - Jill Cohen Walker - All Rights Reserved
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Jill Cohen Walker earned a BA from Goddard College in 1977, a JD from Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1980, and an MS in journalism at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1999. A freelance writer for fifteen years, she has written numerous articles for tech magazines and newspapers, and co-authored a book on hiring practices in the printing industry.
She taught Social Studies for one year in a northern middle school, and medical-legal and bio-medical courses in the Allied Health division of a local community college for four years. A student of legal history and the US Constitution, she began to study current events and Bible prophecies in March 1985. Her deep interest in and awareness of American politics started during the 2000 elections when she realized the prophetic time clock was ticking fast. She is the co-author of the novel "The Call to Prayer". (www.thecalltoprayer.net).
no matter which doctor you see, the opinions of the insurance company’s
panel doctors are the only ones that matter; and they always find someone
with lots of clout to intimidate you and douse the flames of truth.