Wilcox may quit accepting workers’ compensation cases

Though it may not yet be a hospital policy, there are indications that workers in some, if not all, departments of Wilcox Health (Wilcox Memorial Hospital and Kauai Medical Clinic), may no longer accept workers’ compensation cases in the near future.

Straub Clinic & Hospital last year stopped taking workers’ compensation cases (involving employees injured while on the job), closing their occupational-health clinics in Honolulu, according to James Hardway, special assistant to the director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Straub and Wilcox Health are both satellites of health-care providers under the aegis of parent company Hawaii Pacific Health.

Hardway said the topic had been a subject of discussion within the Hawaii Medical Association since 1995.

He said the amount of paperwork was a “hassle” for doctors, as were the low reimbursement rates from insurers.

Workers’ compensation fees, which are pegged to Medicare, have dropped 54 percent since 1995, when members of the state Legislature approved legislation to decrease the fee schedule, according to a published report.

Since then, more doctors have refused to see workers’ compenstation patients, because fees don’t cover the actual costs of treatment, and the paperwork is significantly more burden-some than for regular patients.

On the issue of whether Wilcox Health leaders would stop taking workers’ compensation cases as of Monday, Aug. 1, Wilcox Health public relations officer Lani Yukimura said in a prepared statement:

“This issue is being discussed within our organization. We understand that the physicians at Kauai Medical Clinic have concerns about the increased complexity of workers’ compensation,” she wrote.

“No final decisions have been made. We acknowledge that this is a state-wide issue, and we will continue discussions with our physicians to address their concerns.”

Yet part of a letter electronically signed June 30 by a Wilcox Health orthopedist to a patient reads: “As a final note, this office will no longer be accepting worker’s compensation as a form of insurance, so we will be unable to continue (patient’s) care. The two doctors on the island who participate in workers’ compensation insurance are Dr. Rick Goding at Kauai Veterans Medical Hospital, and Dr. Hayato Mori, who practices out of Kuakini Medical Center.”

Hardway said officials from a private institution like Wilcox Health do not have to notify leaders in the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations until an official decision had been made.

Hawai‘i has remained at the bottom of the states in terms of payments to providers, while nearly topping the list in the workers’-compensation premiums businesses pay, according to a published report.

  • Andy Gross, business editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or agross@pulitzer.net.

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