Home > 4600, Defenses, Medical Treatment, Sanctions, Tactics and Strategy > Housekeeping, Pool Cleaning, and Gardening — All Medical Necessities?

Housekeeping, Pool Cleaning, and Gardening — All Medical Necessities?

Are services for injured workers such as housekeeping, pool cleaning, and gardening “medical treatment” under Labor Code section 4600 and are treating physicians’ recommendations for such services properly referred to Utilization Review under Labor Code section 4610?  The Court of Appeals recently denied applicant’s petition for a writ of review of a divided Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board decision on these very questions.

In the case of James Bishop v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, applicant allegedly sustained injuries to his back, gastrointestinal system, and bilateral knees over a period of twenty-six years, ending in November of 1996 (a specific injury date of September 24, 1996, was also plead).  In 2006, a Workers’ Compensation Judge found applicant sustained an industrial injury with a permanent disability rating of 77%, after apportionment, and awarded applicant future medical treatment.

Defendant, in abiding by this award, paid for bilateral knee replacements, a hip replacement, and left shoulder surgery.  I mention this little fact just to point out that the defendant was not trying to avoid its duties under this award, nor was defendant a cheapskate.  Applicant received extensive treatment and considerable expense to defendant.  So what’s the problem?  Applicant made demands for housekeeping (8 hours a week), pool cleaning (once a week), and gardening services (once a week), based on the recommendations of the treating physician and the Agreed Medical Evaluator, as well as other “treatment” such as a weight loss program.

The WCJ awarded these services and ordered penalties be paid for unreasonable delay of medical treatment.  Defendant filed a petition for reconsideration, arguing that such services were not medical treatment reasonable and necessary to cure or relieve the applicant from the effects of his injury, and so were not subject to penalties for their delay.  Defendant further argued that because these services were not medical treatment, there was no obligation to refer such requests to utilization review.  (The WCJ found that defendant’s UR denial of the treating physician’s recommendations was timely as to the weight loss program, but being silent on the issues of the housekeeping, pool, and gardening services, was not timely.)

The WCAB found that neither the reports of the treating physician nor the AME constituted substantial evidence because of the unexplained conclusion that such services were medically necessary.  The WCAB also concluded that such services were not “medical treatment” and so were not subject to UR.

The WCAB also instructed the WCJ to clarify his analysis regarding the imposed penalties.

So what should we take away from this?  I would still recommend sending recommendations for in-house services to UR – this was a divided panel and therefore offers even less authority than the typical unanimous decision; it looks like defendant caught a lucky break in this case.  But, all in all, this is a great decision for an obviously responsible and responsive defendant – the matters of medical necessity were paid for; the trivialities of milking the defendant for free house services were properly and effectively resisted.

Often enough, these services are awarded to applicants, but usually the treating physician and/or the A/QME have to do a bit more leg work in their reports.  If you keep a close eye on these reports and requests for treatments, you might catch an M.D. or, more likely, a D.C. cutting corners, and thereby cutting you a path to denying “treatment.”

What’s your craziest story?  Free hot tubs? Manicures and pedicures?  If you’ve got a crazy story, let me know – gregory@grinberglawoffice.com

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: