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Chapter 4.5. Division of Workers' Compensation
Subchapter 1. Administrative Director--Administrative Rules
Article 5.5.1. Utilization Review Standards
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§9792.9. Utilization Review Standards - Timeframe, Procedures and Notice Content - For Utilization Review Decisions Issued Prior to July 1, 2013 for Injuries Occurring Prior to January 1, 2013.

This section applies to any request for authorization of medical treatment, submitted under Article 5.5.1 of this Subchapter, for an occupational injury or illness occurring prior to January 1, 2013 where the request for authorization is received prior to July 1, 2013.

(a) The request for authorization for a course of treatment as defined in section 9792.6(e) must be in written form.

(1) For purposes of this section, the written request for authorization shall be deemed to have been received by the claims administrator by facsimile on the date the request was received if the receiving facsimile electronically date stamps the transmission. If there is no electronically stamped date recorded, then the date the request was transmitted. A request for authorization transmitted by facsimile after 5:30 PM Pacific Time shall be deemed to have been received by the claims administrator on the following business day as defined in Labor Code section 4600.4 and in section 9 of the Civil Code. The copy of the request for authorization received by a facsimile transmission shall bear a notation of the date, time and place of transmission and the facsimile telephone number to which the request was transmitted or be accompanied by an unsigned copy of the affidavit or certificate of transmission which shall contain the facsimile telephone number to which the request was transmitted. The requesting physician must indicate the need for an expedited review upon submission of the request.

(2) Where the request for authorization is made by mail, and a proof of service by mail exists, the request shall be deemed to have been received by the claims administrator five (5) days after the deposit in the mail at a facility regularly maintained by the United States Postal Service. Where the request for authorization is delivered via certified mail, return receipt mail, the request shall be deemed to have been received by the claims administrator on the receipt date entered on the return receipt. In the absence of a proof of service by mail or a dated return receipt, the request shall be deemed to have been received by the claims administrator on the date stamped as received on the document.

(b) Utilization review of a request for authorization of medical treatment may be deferred if the claims administrator disputes liability for either the occupational injury for which the treatment is recommended or the recommended treatment itself on grounds other than medical necessity.

(1) If the claims administrator disputes its liability for the requested medical treatment under this subdivision, it may, no later than five (5) business days from receipt of the request for authorization, issue a written decision deferring utilization review of the requested treatment, unless the requesting physician has been previously notified under this subdivision of a dispute over liability and an explanation for the deferral of utilization review for a specific course of treatment. The written decision must be sent to the requesting physician, the injured worker, and if the injured worker is represented by counsel, the injured worker's attorney. The written decision shall only contain the following information specific to the request:

(A) The date on which the request for authorization was first received.

(B) A description of the specific course of proposed medical treatment for which authorization was requested.

(C) A clear, concise, and appropriate explanation of the reason for the claims administrator's dispute of liability for either the injury, claimed body part or parts, or the recommended treatment.

(D) A plain language statement advising the injured employee that any dispute under this subdivision shall be resolved either by agreement of the parties or through the dispute resolution process of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board.

(E) The following mandatory language advising the injured employee:

“You have a right to disagree with decisions affecting your claim. If you have questions about the information in this notice, please call me (insert claims adjuster's name in parentheses) at (insert telephone number). However, if you are represented by an attorney, please contact your attorney instead of me.

and

“For information about the workers' compensation claims process and your rights and obligations, go to www.dwc.ca.gov or contact an information and assistance (I&A) officer of the state Division of Workers' Compensation. For recorded information and a list of offices, call toll-free 1-800-736-7401.”

(2) If utilization review is deferred pursuant to this subdivision, and it is finally determined that the claims administrator is liable for treatment of the condition for which treatment is recommended, either by decision of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board or by agreement between the parties, the time for the claims administrator to conduct retrospective utilization review in accordance with this section shall begin on the date the determination of the claims administrator's liability becomes final. The time for the claims administrator to conduct prospective utilization review shall commence from the date of the claims administrator's receipt of a request for authorization after the final determination of liability.

(c) The utilization review process shall meet the following timeframe requirements:

(1) Prospective or concurrent decisions shall be made in a timely fashion that is appropriate for the nature of the injured worker's condition, not to exceed five (5) working days from the date of receipt of the written request for authorization.

(2) If appropriate information which is necessary to render a decision is not provided with the original request for authorization, such information may be requested by a reviewer or non-physician reviewer within five (5) working days from the date of receipt of the written request for authorization to make the proper determination. In no event shall the determination be made more than 14 days from the date of receipt of the original request for authorization by the health care provider.

(A) If the reasonable information requested by the claims administrator is not received within 14 days of the date of the original written request by the requesting physician, a reviewer may deny the request with the stated condition that the request will be reconsidered upon receipt of the information requested.

(3) Decisions to approve a physician's request for authorization prior to, or concurrent with, the provision of medical services to the injured worker shall be communicated to the requesting physician within 24 hours of the decision. Any decision to approve a request shall be communicated to the requesting physician initially by telephone or facsimile. The communication by telephone shall be followed by written notice to the requesting physician within 24 hours of the decision for concurrent review and within two business days for prospective review.

(4) Decisions to modify, delay or deny a physician's request for authorization prior to, or concurrent with the provision of medical services to the injured worker shall be communicated to the requesting physician initially by telephone or facsimile. The communication by telephone shall be followed by written notice to the requesting physician, the injured worker, and if the injured worker is represented by counsel, the injured worker's attorney within 24 hours of the decision for concurrent review and within two business days of the decision for prospective review. In addition, the non-physician provider of goods or services identified in the request for authorization, and for whom contact information has been included, shall be notified in writing of the decision modifying, delaying, or denying a request for authorization that shall not include the rationale, criteria or guidelines used for the decision.

(5) For purposes of this section “normal business day” means a business day as defined in Labor Code section 4600.4 and Civil Code section 9.

(d) When review is retrospective, decisions shall be communicated to the requesting physician who provided the medical services and to the individual who received the medical services, and his or her attorney/designee, if applicable, within 30 days of receipt of the medical information that is reasonably necessary to make this determination. In addition, the non-physician provider of goods or services identified in the request for authorization, and for whom contact information has been included, shall be notified in writing of the decision modifying, delaying, or denying a request for authorization that shall not include the rationale, criteria or guidelines used for the decision.

(e) Failure to obtain prior authorization for emergency health care services shall not be an acceptable basis for refusal to cover medical services provided to treat and stabilize an injured worker presenting for emergency health care services. Emergency health care services, however, may be subjected to retrospective review. Documentation for emergency health care services shall be made available to the claims administrator upon request.

(f) Prospective or concurrent decisions related to an expedited review shall be made in a timely fashion appropriate to the injured worker's condition, not to exceed 72 hours after the receipt of the written information reasonably necessary to make the determination. The requesting physician must indicate the need for an expedited review upon submission of the request. Decisions related to expedited review refer to the following situations:

(1) When the injured worker's condition is such that the injured worker faces 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, or

(2) The normal timeframe for the decision-making process, as described in subdivision (b), would be detrimental to the injured worker's life or health or could jeopardize the injured worker's permanent ability to regain maximum function.

(g) The review and decision to deny, delay or modify a request for medical treatment must be conducted by a reviewer, who is competent to evaluate the specific clinical issues involved in the medical treatment services, and where these services are within the scope of the individual's practice.

(h)(1) The timeframe for decisions specified in subdivisions (b)(1), (b)(2) or (c) may only be extended by the claims administrator under the following circumstances:

(A) The claims administrator is not in receipt of all of the necessary medical information reasonably requested.

(B) The reviewer has asked that an additional examination or test be performed upon the injured worker that is reasonable and consistent with professionally recognized standards of medical practice.

(C) The claims administrator needs a specialized consultation and review of medical information by an expert reviewer.

(2) If subdivisions (A), (B) or (C) above apply, the claims administrator shall immediately notify the requesting physician, the injured worker, and if the injured worker is represented by counsel, the injured worker's attorney in writing, that the claims administrator cannot make a decision within the required timeframe, and specify the information requested but not received, the additional examinations or tests required, or the specialty of the expert reviewer to be consulted. The claims administrator shall also notify the requesting physician, the injured worker, and if the injured worker is represented by counsel, the injured worker's attorney of the anticipated date on which a decision will be rendered. This notice shall include a statement that if the injured worker believes that a bona fide dispute exists relating to his or her entitlement to medical treatment, the injured worker or the injured worker's attorney may file an Application for Adjudication of Claim, Form WCAB 1, and a Declaration of Readiness to Proceed (expedited trial), DWC-CA form 10252.1. In addition, the non-physician provider of goods or services identified in the request for authorization, and for whom contact information has been included, shall be notified in writing of the decision to extend the timeframe and the anticipated date on which the decision will be rendered in accordance with this subdivision. The written notification shall not include the rationale, criteria or guidelines used for the decision.

(3) Upon receipt of information pursuant to subdivisions (A), (B), or (C) above, and (b)(2)(A), the claims administrator shall make the decision to approve, and the reviewer shall make a decision to modify or deny the request for authorization within five (5) working days of receipt of the information for prospective or concurrent review. The decision shall be communicated pursuant to subdivisions (b)(3) or (b)(4).

(4) Upon receipt of information pursuant to subdivisions (A), (B), or (C) above, the claims administrator shall make the decision to approve, and the reviewer shall make a decision to modify or deny the request for authorization within thirty (30) days of receipt of the information for retrospective review.

(i) Every claims administrator shall maintain telephone access from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM Pacific Time, on normal business days, for health care providers to request authorization for medical services. Every claims administrator shall have a facsimile number available for physicians to request authorization for medical services. Every claims administrator shall maintain a process to receive communications from health care providers requesting authorization for medical services after business hours. For purposes of this section “normal business day” means a business day as defined in Labor Code section 4600.4 and Civil Code section 9. In addition, for purposes of this section the requirement that the claims administrator maintain a process to receive communications from requesting physicians after business hours shall be satisfied by maintaining a voice mail system or a facsimile number for after business hours requests.

(j) A written decision approving a request for treatment authorization under this section shall specify the specific medical treatment service approved.

(k) A written decision modifying, delaying or denying treatment authorization under this section, when the decision is communicated prior to July 1, 2013, shall be provided to the requesting physician, the injured worker, and if the injured worker is represented by counsel, the injured worker's attorney and shall contain the following information:

(1) The date on which the decision is made.

(2) A description of the specific course of proposed medical treatment for which authorization was requested.

(3) A specific description of the medical treatment service approved, if any.

(4) A clear and concise explanation of the reasons for the claims administrator's decision.

(5) A description of the medical criteria or guidelines used pursuant to section 9792.8, subdivision (a)(3).

(6) The clinical reasons regarding medical necessity.

(7) A clear statement that any dispute shall be resolved in accordance with the provisions of Labor Code section 4062, and that an objection to the utilization review decision must be communicated by the injured worker or the injured worker's attorney on behalf of the injured worker to the claims administrator in writing within 20 days of receipt of the decision. It shall further state that the 20-day time limit may be extended for good cause or by mutual agreement of the parties. The letter shall further state that the injured worker may file an Application for Adjudication of Claim, Form WCAB 1, and a Declaration of Readiness to Proceed (expedited trial), DWC-CA form 10252.1.

(8)(A) Include the following mandatory language:

Either

“If you want further information, you may contact the local state Information and Assistance office by calling [enter district I & A office telephone number closest to the injured worker] or you may receive recorded information by calling 1-800-736-7401.

or

“If you want further information, you may contact the local state Information and Assistance office closest to you. Please see attached listing (attach a listing of I&A offices and telephone numbers) or you may receive recorded information by calling 1-800-736-7401.”

and

“You may also consult an attorney of your choice. Should you decide to be represented by an attorney, you may or may not receive a larger award, but, unless you are determined to be ineligible for an award, the attorney's fee will be deducted from any award you might receive for disability benefits. The decision to be represented by an attorney is yours to make, but it is voluntary and may not be necessary for you to receive your benefits.”

(B) Instead of the mandatory language stated in subdivision (k)(8)(A), the following language may be used:

“You have a right to disagree with decisions affecting your claim. If you have questions about the information in this notice, please call me (insert claims adjuster's name in parentheses) at (insert telephone number). However, if you are represented by an attorney, please contact your attorney instead of me.

and

“For information about the workers' compensation claims process and your rights and obligations, go to www.dwc.ca.gov or contact an information and assistance (I&A) officer of the state Division of Workers' Compensation. For recorded information and a list of offices, call toll-free 1-800-736-7401.”

In addition, the non-physician provider of goods or services identified in the request for authorization, and for whom contact information has been included, shall be notified in writing of the decision modifying, delaying, or denying a request for authorization that shall not include the rationale, criteria or guidelines used for the decision.

(9) Details about the claims administrator's internal utilization review appeals process, if any, and a clear statement that the appeals process is on a voluntary basis, including the following mandatory statement:

“If you disagree with the utilization review decision and wish to dispute it, you must send written notice of your objection to the claims administrator within 20 days of receipt of the utilization review decision in accordance with Labor Code section 4062. You must meet this deadline even if you are participating in the claims administrator's internal utilization review appeals process.”

(l) A written decision modifying, delaying or denying treatment authorization under this section, sent on or after July 1, 2013, shall be provided to the requesting physician, the injured worker, and if the injured worker is represented by counsel, the injured worker's attorney and shall contain the following information:

(1) The date on which the decision is made.

(2) A description of the specific course of proposed medical treatment for which authorization was requested.

(3) A list of all medical records reviewed.

(4) A specific description of the medical treatment service approved, if any.

(5) A clear, concise, and appropriate explanation of the reasons for the claims administrator's decision, including the clinical reasons regarding medical necessity and a description of the relevant medical criteria or guidelines used to reach the decision pursuant to section 9792.8. If a utilization review decision to modify, deny or delay a medical service is due to incomplete or insufficient information, the decision shall specify the reason for the decision and specify the information that is needed.

(6) The Application for Independent Medical Review, DWC Form IMR, with all fields, except for the signature of the employee, to be completed by the claims administrator. The written decision provided to the injured worker, and if the injured worker is represented by counsel, the injured worker's attorney, shall include an addressed envelope, which may be postage-paid for mailing to the Administrative Director or his or her designee.

(7) A clear statement advising the injured employee that any dispute shall be resolved in accordance with the independent medical review provisions of Labor Code section 4610.5 and 4610.6, and that an objection to the utilization review decision must be communicated by the injured worker, the injured worker's representative, or the injured worker's attorney on behalf of the injured worker on the enclosed Application for Independent Medical Review, DWC Form IMR, within 30 calendar days of receipt of the decision.

(8) Include the following mandatory language advising the injured employee:

“You have a right to disagree with decisions affecting your claim. If you have questions about the information in this notice, please call me (insert claims adjuster's or appropriate contact's name in parentheses) at (insert telephone number). However, if you are represented by an attorney, please contact your attorney instead of me.

and

“For information about the workers' compensation claims process and your rights and obligations, go to www.dwc.ca.gov or contact an information and assistance (I&A) officer of the state Division of Workers' Compensation. For recorded information and a list of offices, call toll-free 1-800-736-7401.”

(9) Details about the claims administrator's internal utilization review appeals process for the requesting physician, if any, and a clear statement that the internal appeals process is a voluntary process that neither triggers nor bars use of the dispute resolution procedures of Labor Code section 4610.5 and 4610.6, but may be pursued on an optional basis.

(m) The written decision modifying, delaying or denying treatment authorization provided to the requesting physician shall also contain the name and specialty of the reviewer or expert reviewer, and the telephone number in the United States of the reviewer or expert reviewer. The written decision shall also disclose the hours of availability of either the review, the expert reviewer or the medical director for the treating physician to discuss the decision which shall be, at a minimum, four (4) hours per week during normal business hours, 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM., Pacific Time or an agreed upon scheduled time to discuss the decision with the requesting physician. In the vent the reviewer is unavailable, the requesting physician may discuss the written decision with another reviewer who is competent to evaluate the specific clinical issues involved in the medical treatment services.

(n) Authorization may not be denied on the basis of lack of information without documentation reflecting an attempt to obtain the necessary information from the physician or from the provider of goods or services identified in the request for authorization either by facsimile or mail.

(o) A utilization review decision to modify, delay, or deny a request for authorization of medical treatment shall remain effective for 12 months from the date of the decision without further action by the claims administrator with regard to any further recommendation by the same physician for the same treatment unless the further recommendation is supported by a documented change in the facts material to the basis of the utilization review decision.

Note: Authority cited: Sections 133, 4603.5 and 5307.3, Labor Code. Reference: Sections 4062, 4600, 4600.4, 4604.5, 4610 and 4610.5, Labor Code.

HISTORY

1. New section filed 12-9-2004 as an emergency; operative 12-13-2004 (Register 2004, No. 50). A Certificate of Compliance must be transmitted to OAL by 4-12-2005 or emergency language will be repealed by operation of law on the following day.

2. New section refiled 4-6-2005 as an emergency; operative 4-12-2005 (Register 2005, No. 14). A Certificate of Compliance must be transmitted to OAL by 8-10-2005 or emergency language will be repealed by operation of law on the following day.

3. Certificate of Compliance as to 4-6-2005 order, including amendment of section, transmitted to OAL 8-10-2005 and filed 9-22-2005 (Register 2005, No. 38).

4. Amendment of section heading, new first paragraph and new subsections (b)-(b)(2), subsection relettering, amendment of newly designated subsections (h)(2), (k) and (k)(7), new subsections (k)(8)(A)-(B) and (l )-(l )(9), subsection relettering, new subsection (o) and amendment of Note filed 12-31-2012 as an emergency; operative 1-1-2013 pursuant to Government Code section 11346.1(d) (Register 2013, No. 1). A Certificate of Compliance must be transmitted to OAL by 7-1-2013 or emergency language will be repealed by operation of law on the following day.

5. Amendment of section heading, new first paragraph and new subsections (b)-(b)(2), subsection relettering, amendment of newly designated subsections (h)(2), (k) and (k)(7), new subsections (k)(8)(A)-(B) and (l )-(l )(9), subsection relettering, new subsection (o) and amendment of Note refiled 7-1-2013 as an emergency; operative 7-1-2013 (Register 2013, No. 27). A Certificate of Compliance must be transmitted to OAL by 9-30-2013 or emergency language will be repealed by operation of law on the following day.

6. Amendment of section heading, new first paragraph and new subsections (b)-(b)(2), subsection relettering, amendment of newly designated subsections (h)(2), (k) and (k)(7), new subsections (k)(8)(A)-(B) and (l)-(l)(9), subsection relettering, new subsection (o) and amendment of Note refiled 9-30-2013 as an emergency; operative 10-1-2013 (Register 2013, No. 40). A Certificate of Compliance must be transmitted to OAL by 12-30-2013 or emergency language will be repealed by operation of law on the following day.

7. Certificate of Compliance as to 9-30-2013 order, including further amendment of section heading, first paragraph and subsections (b)(1), (b)(2), (k) and (l)(6), transmitted to OAL 12-30-2013 and filed 2-12-2014; amendments effective 2-12-2014 pursuant to Government Code section 11343.4(b)(3) (Register 2014, No. 7).


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