On July 1, 2012, Governor Perdue signed into law a bill that provides for some minor, albeit important, revisions of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. Below is a summary of the changes to the law.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 25.6(c), which provides that an employee has the right to receive a copy of all medical records provided to the employer, has been modified to specify that the employer’s responsibility to provide a copy of the medical records to the employee is only triggered by the employee’s request. If a request is made, medical records must be provided within 30 days of receipt of the request. Additionally, this section has been modified to allow an employer to communicate with the employee’s authorized health care provider regarding an employee's ability to return to work for the employer as laid out in a job description provided to the health care provider.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-25.6(d), which governs the procedure employers must follow in order to submit additional medical information to the employee’s authorized health care provider, has been revised to clarify the timeline imposed on the employee’s timely objection and request for a protective order. This section previously established a ten (10) day window for an employee to object or consent to the employer’s proposed communication with the physician when an employer sought to provide a doctor additional medical information. Upon making a timely objection, the employee would then be permitted to request a protective order preventing the communication, but the statute was silent with regard to a deadline for making the request for a protective order. With the recent revision, the statute is now clear that the ten (10) day window applies not only to the initial objection, but also to the request for a protective order. As the statute now reads, the employer may submit the proposed communication directly to the physician unless the employee files a request for a protective order within ten (10) days of the employer’s proposal.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-25.6(g) was revised to expand the authorization of “other forms” of communication with the health care provider (i.e. those forms of communication not otherwise addressed in G.S. § 97-25.6). The statute previously permitted such communication only upon an order of the Industrial Commission deeming the information necessary and otherwise unobtainable, but now the statute additionally permits communication by an “agreement of the parties” as well as by “a valid written authorization voluntarily given and signed by the employee.”
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-27(b), which addresses employees’ entitlement to second opinion evaluations of permanent partial disability ratings, has been revised to establish that all travel expenses incurred by the employee in obtaining the evaluation allowed by this section are to be paid by the employee.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-32.2(a) was revised to dictate that an employee will not be required to accept or participate in vocational rehabilitation services if the employee is receiving extended compensation pursuant to G.S. § 97-29(c) or is permanently and totally disabled pursuant to G.S. § 97-29(d).
Additional revisions to the Workers’ Compensation Act that address the rule-making process have also gone into effect. Pursuant to the revised N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-26, the Industrial Commission’s adoption of the medical fee schedule will no longer be subject to the traditional procedure of notice, public hearing, and appeal.
To read the full text of the bill, please click here.
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This legal update is published as a service to our clients and friends. It is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice regarding any specific situation.