(1) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Alternate medical care” means a change in treatment or health care provider.
(b) “Attendant care” means care rendered by trained professional attendants which is beyond the scope of household duties. Family members may provide nonprofessional attendant care, but may not be compensated under this chapter for care that falls within the scope of household duties and other services normally and gratuitously provided by family members. “Family member” means a spouse, father, mother, brother, sister, child, grandchild, father-in-law, mother-in-law, aunt, or uncle.
(c) “Carrier” means, for purposes of this section, insurance carrier, self-insurance fund or individually self-insured employer, or assessable mutual insurer.
(d) “Compensable” means a determination by a carrier or judge of compensation claims that a condition suffered by an employee results from an injury arising out of and in the course of employment.
(e) “Emergency services and care” means emergency services and care as defined in s. 395.002.
(f) “Health care facility” means any hospital licensed under chapter 395 and any health care institution licensed under chapter 400 or chapter 429.
(g) “Health care provider” means a physician or any recognized practitioner licensed to provide skilled services pursuant to a prescription or under the supervision or direction of a physician. The term “health care provider” includes a health care facility.
(h) “Independent medical examiner” means a physician selected by either an employee or a carrier to render one or more independent medical examinations in connection with a dispute arising under this chapter.
(i) “Independent medical examination” means an objective evaluation of the injured employee’s medical condition, including, but not limited to, impairment or work status, performed by a physician or an expert medical advisor at the request of a party, a judge of compensation claims, or the department to assist in the resolution of a dispute arising under this chapter.
(j) “Instance of overutilization” means a specific inappropriate service or level of service provided to an injured employee that includes the provision of treatment in excess of established practice parameters and protocols of treatment established in accordance with this chapter.
(k) “Medically necessary” or “medical necessity” means any medical service or medical supply which is used to identify or treat an illness or injury, is appropriate to the patient’s diagnosis and status of recovery, and is consistent with the location of service, the level of care provided, and applicable practice parameters. The service should be widely accepted among practicing health care providers, based on scientific criteria, and determined to be reasonably safe. The service must not be of an experimental, investigative, or research nature.
(l) “Medicine” means a drug prescribed by an authorized health care provider and includes only generic drugs or single-source patented drugs for which there is no generic equivalent, unless the authorized health care provider writes or states that the brand-name drug as defined in s. 465.025 is medically necessary, or is a drug appearing on the schedule of drugs created pursuant to s. 465.025(6), or is available at a cost lower than its generic equivalent.
(m) “Palliative care” means noncurative medical services that mitigate the conditions, effects, or pain of an injury.
(n) “Pattern or practice of overutilization” means repetition of instances of overutilization within a specific medical case or multiple cases by a single health care provider.
(o) “Peer review” means an evaluation by two or more physicians licensed under the same authority and with the same or similar specialty as the physician under review, of the appropriateness, quality, and cost of health care and health services provided to a patient, based on medically accepted standards.
(p) “Physician” or “doctor” means a physician licensed under chapter 458, an osteopathic physician licensed under chapter 459, a chiropractic physician licensed under chapter 460, a podiatric physician licensed under chapter 461, an optometrist licensed under chapter 463, or a dentist licensed under chapter 466.
(q) “Reimbursement dispute” means any disagreement between a health care provider or health care facility and carrier concerning payment for medical treatment.
(r) “Utilization control” means a systematic process of implementing measures that assure overall management and cost containment of services delivered, including compliance with practice parameters and protocols of treatment as provided for in this chapter.
(s) “Utilization review” means the evaluation of the appropriateness of both the level and the quality of health care and health services provided to a patient, including, but not limited to, evaluation of the appropriateness of treatment, hospitalization, or office visits based on medically accepted standards. Such evaluation must be accomplished by means of a system that identifies the utilization of medical services based on practice parameters and protocols of treatment as provided for in this chapter.
(2) MEDICAL TREATMENT; DUTY OF EMPLOYER TO FURNISH.—
(a) Subject to the limitations specified elsewhere in this chapter, the employer shall furnish to the employee such medically necessary remedial treatment, care, and attendance for such period as the nature of the injury or the process of recovery may require, which is in accordance with established practice parameters and protocols of treatment as provided for in this chapter, including medicines, medical supplies, durable medical equipment, orthoses, prostheses, and other medically necessary apparatus. Remedial treatment, care, and attendance, including work-hardening programs or pain-management programs accredited by an accrediting organization whose standards incorporate comparable regulations required by this state or pain-management programs affiliated with medical schools, shall be considered covered treatment only when such care is given based on a referral by a physician as defined in this chapter. Medically necessary treatment, care, and attendance does not include chiropractic services in excess of 24 treatments or rendered 12 weeks beyond the date of the initial chiropractic treatment, whichever comes first, unless the carrier authorizes additional treatment or the employee is catastrophically injured.
(b) The employer shall provide appropriate professional or nonprofessional attendant care performed only at the direction and control of a physician when such care is medically necessary. The physician shall prescribe such care in writing. The employer or carrier shall not be responsible for such care until the prescription for attendant care is received by the employer and carrier, which shall specify the time periods for such care, the level of care required, and the type of assistance required. A prescription for attendant care shall not prescribe such care retroactively. The value of nonprofessional attendant care provided by a family member must be determined as follows:
1. If the family member is not employed or if the family member is employed and is providing attendant care services during hours that he or she is not engaged in employment, the per-hour value equals the federal minimum hourly wage.
2. If the family member is employed and elects to leave that employment to provide attendant or custodial care, the per-hour value of that care equals the per-hour value of the family member’s former employment, not to exceed the per-hour value of such care available in the community at large. A family member or a combination of family members providing nonprofessional attendant care under this paragraph may not be compensated for more than a total of 12 hours per day.
3. If the family member remains employed while providing attendant or custodial care, the per-hour value of that care equals the per-hour value of the family member’s employment, not to exceed the per-hour value of such care available in the community at large.
(c) If the employer fails to provide initial treatment or care required by this section after request by the injured employee, the employee may obtain such initial treatment at the expense of the employer, if the initial treatment or care is compensable and medically necessary and is in accordance with established practice parameters and protocols of treatment as provided for in this chapter. There must be a specific request for the initial treatment or care, and the employer or carrier must be given a reasonable time period within which to provide the initial treatment or care. However, the employee is not entitled to recover any amount personally expended for the initial treatment or care unless he or she has requested the employer to furnish that initial treatment or service and the employer has failed, refused, or neglected to do so within a reasonable time or unless the nature of the injury requires such initial treatment, nursing, and services and the employer or his or her superintendent or foreman, having knowledge of the injury, has neglected to provide the initial treatment or care.
(d) The carrier has the right to transfer the care of an injured employee from the attending health care provider if an independent medical examination determines that the employee is not making appropriate progress in recuperation.
(e) Except in emergency situations and for treatment rendered by a managed care arrangement, after any initial examination and diagnosis by a physician providing remedial treatment, care, and attendance, and before a proposed course of medical treatment begins, each insurer shall review, in accordance with the requirements of this chapter, the proposed course of treatment, to determine whether such treatment would be recognized as reasonably prudent. The review must be in accordance with all applicable workers’ compensation practice parameters and protocols of treatment established in accordance with this chapter. The insurer must accept any such proposed course of treatment unless the insurer notifies the physician of its specific objections to the proposed course of treatment by the close of the tenth business day after notification by the physician, or a supervised designee of the physician, of the proposed course of treatment.
(f) Upon the written request of the employee, the carrier shall give the employee the opportunity for one change of physician during the course of treatment for any one accident. Upon the granting of a change of physician, the originally authorized physician in the same specialty as the changed physician shall become deauthorized upon written notification by the employer or carrier. The carrier shall authorize an alternative physician who shall not be professionally affiliated with the previous physician within 5 days after receipt of the request. If the carrier fails to provide a change of physician as requested by the employee, the employee may select the physician and such physician shall be considered authorized if the treatment being provided is compensable and medically necessary.
Failure of the carrier to timely comply with this subsection shall be a violation of this chapter and the carrier shall be subject to penalties as provided for in s. 440.525.
(3) PROVIDER ELIGIBILITY; AUTHORIZATION.—
(a) As a condition to eligibility for payment under this chapter, a health care provider who renders services must receive authorization from the carrier before providing treatment. This paragraph does not apply to emergency care.
(b) A health care provider who renders emergency care must notify the carrier by the close of the third business day after it has rendered such care. If the emergency care results in admission of the employee to a health care facility, the health care provider must notify the carrier by telephone within 24 hours after initial treatment. Emergency care is not compensable under this chapter unless the injury requiring emergency care arose as a result of a work-related accident. Pursuant to chapter 395, all licensed physicians and health care providers in this state shall be required to make their services available for emergency treatment of any employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. To refuse to make such treatment available is cause for revocation of a license.
(c) A health care provider may not refer the employee to another health care provider, diagnostic facility, therapy center, or other facility without prior authorization from the carrier, except when emergency care is rendered. Any referral must be to a health care provider, unless the referral is for emergency treatment, and must be made in accordance with practice parameters and protocols of treatment as provided for in this chapter.
(d) A carrier must respond, by telephone or in writing, to a request for authorization from an authorized health care provider by the close of the third business day after receipt of the request. A carrier who fails to respond to a written request for authorization for referral for medical treatment by the close of the third business day after receipt of the request consents to the medical necessity for such treatment. All such requests must be made to the carrier. Notice to the carrier does not include notice to the employer.
(e) Carriers shall adopt procedures for receiving, reviewing, documenting, and responding to requests for authorization.
(f) By accepting payment under this chapter for treatment rendered to an injured employee, a health care provider consents to the jurisdiction of the department as set forth in subsection (11) and to the submission of all records and other information concerning such treatment to the department in connection with a reimbursement dispute, audit, or review as provided by this section. The health care provider must further agree to comply with any decision of the department rendered under this section.
(g) The employee is not liable for payment for medical treatment or services provided pursuant to this section except as otherwise provided in this section.
(h) The provisions of s. 456.053 are applicable to referrals among health care providers, as defined in subsection (1), treating injured workers.
(i) Notwithstanding paragraph (d), a claim for specialist consultations, surgical operations, physiotherapeutic or occupational therapy procedures, X-ray examinations, or special diagnostic laboratory tests that cost more than $1,000 and other specialty services that the department identifies by rule is not valid and reimbursable unless the services have been expressly authorized by the carrier, unless the carrier has failed to respond within 10 days to a written request for authorization, or unless emergency care is required. The insurer shall authorize such consultation or procedure unless the health care provider or facility is not authorized, unless such treatment is not in accordance with practice parameters and protocols of treatment established in this chapter, or unless a judge of compensation claims has determined that the consultation or procedure is not medically necessary, not in accordance with the practice parameters and protocols of treatment established in this chapter, or otherwise not compensable under this chapter. Authorization of a treatment plan does not constitute express authorization for purposes of this section, except to the extent the carrier provides otherwise in its authorization procedures. This paragraph does not limit the carrier’s obligation to identify and disallow overutilization or billing errors.
(j) Notwithstanding anything in this chapter to the contrary, a sick or injured employee shall be entitled, at all times, to free, full, and absolute choice in the selection of the pharmacy or pharmacist dispensing and filling prescriptions for medicines required under this chapter. It is expressly forbidden for the department, an employer, or a carrier, or any agent or representative of the department, an employer, or a carrier, to select the pharmacy or pharmacist which the sick or injured employee must use; condition coverage or payment on the basis of the pharmacy or pharmacist utilized; or to otherwise interfere in the selection by the sick or injured employee of a pharmacy or pharmacist.
(k) Reimbursement shall not be made for oral vitamins, nutrient preparations, or dietary supplements. Reimbursement shall not be made for medical food, as defined in 21 U.S.C. s. 360ee(b)(3), unless the self-insured employer or the carrier in its sole discretion authorizes the provision of such food. Such authorization may be limited by frequency, type, dosage, and reimbursement amount of such food as part of a proposed written course of medical treatment.
(4) NOTICE OF TREATMENT TO CARRIER; FILING WITH DEPARTMENT.—
(a) Any health care provider providing necessary remedial treatment, care, or attendance to any injured worker shall submit treatment reports to the carrier in a format prescribed by the department. A claim for medical or surgical treatment is not valid or enforceable against such employer or employee, unless, by the close of the third business day following the first treatment, the physician providing the treatment furnishes to the employer or carrier a preliminary notice of the injury and treatment in a format prescribed by the department and, within 15 days thereafter, furnishes to the employer or carrier a complete report, and subsequent thereto furnishes progress reports, if requested by the employer or insurance carrier, at intervals of not less than 3 weeks apart or at less frequent intervals if requested in a format prescribed by the department.
(b) Upon the request of the department, each medical report or bill obtained or received by the employer, the carrier, or the injured employee, or the attorney for the employer, carrier, or injured employee, with respect to the remedial treatment, care, and attendance of the injured employee, including any report of an examination, diagnosis, or disability evaluation, must be produced by the health care provider to the department pursuant to rules adopted by the department. The health care provider shall also furnish to the injured employee or his or her attorney and the employer or carrier or its attorney, on demand, a copy of his or her office chart, records, and reports, and may charge the injured employee no more than 50 cents per page for copying the records and the actual direct cost to the health care provider or health care facility for X rays, microfilm, or other nonpaper records. Each such health care provider shall provide to the department information about the remedial treatment, care, and attendance which the department reasonably requests.
(c) It is the policy for the administration of the workers’ compensation system that there shall be reasonable access to medical information by all parties to facilitate the self-executing features of the law. An employee who reports an injury or illness alleged to be work-related waives any physician-patient privilege with respect to any condition or complaint reasonably related to the condition for which the employee claims compensation. Notwithstanding the limitations in s. 456.057 and subject to the limitations in s. 381.004, upon the request of the employer, the carrier, an authorized qualified rehabilitation provider, or the attorney for the employer or carrier, the medical records, reports, and information of an injured employee relevant to the particular injury or illness for which compensation is sought must be furnished to those persons and the medical condition of the injured employee must be discussed with those persons, if the records and the discussions are restricted to conditions relating to the workplace injury. Release of medical information by the health care provider or other physician does not require the authorization of the injured employee. If medical records, reports, and information of an injured employee are sought from health care providers who are not subject to the jurisdiction of the state, the injured employee shall sign an authorization allowing for the employer or carrier to obtain the medical records, reports, or information. Any such discussions or release of information may be held before or after the filing of a claim or petition for benefits without the knowledge, consent, or presence of any other party or his or her agent or representative. A health care provider who willfully refuses to provide medical records or to discuss the medical condition of the injured employee, after a reasonable request is made for such information pursuant to this subsection, shall be subject by the department to one or more of the penalties set forth in paragraph (8)(b). The department may adopt rules to carry out this subsection. (5) INDEPENDENT MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS.—
(a) In any dispute concerning overutilization, medical benefits, compensability, or disability under this chapter, the carrier or the employee may select an independent medical examiner. If the parties agree, the examiner may be a health care provider treating or providing other care to the employee. An independent medical examiner may not render an opinion outside his or her area of expertise, as demonstrated by licensure and applicable practice parameters. The employer and employee shall be entitled to only one independent medical examination per accident and not one independent medical examination per medical specialty. The party requesting and selecting the independent medical examination shall be responsible for all expenses associated with said examination, including, but not limited to, medically necessary diagnostic testing performed and physician or medical care provider fees for the evaluation. The party selecting the independent medical examination shall identify the choice of the independent medical examiner to all other parties within 15 days after the date the independent medical examination is to take place. Failure to timely provide such notification shall preclude the requesting party from submitting the findings of such independent medical examiner in a proceeding before a judge of compensation claims. The independent medical examiner may not provide followup care if such recommendation for care is found to be medically necessary. If the employee prevails in a medical dispute as determined in an order by a judge of compensation claims or if benefits are paid or treatment provided after the employee has obtained an independent medical examination based upon the examiner’s findings, the costs of such examination shall be paid by the employer or carrier.
(b) Each party is bound by his or her selection of an independent medical examiner, including the selection of the independent medical examiner in accordance with s. 440.134 and the opinions of such independent medical examiner. Each party is entitled to an alternate examiner only if:
1. The examiner is not qualified to render an opinion upon an aspect of the employee’s illness or injury which is material to the claim or petition for benefits;
2. The examiner ceases to practice in the specialty relevant to the employee’s condition;
3. The examiner is unavailable due to injury, death, or relocation outside a reasonably accessible geographic area; or
4. The parties agree to an alternate examiner.
(c) The carrier may, at its election, contact the claimant directly to schedule a reasonable time for an independent medical examination. The carrier must confirm the scheduling agreement in writing with the claimant and the claimant’s counsel, if any, at least 7 days before the date upon which the independent medical examination is scheduled to occur. An attorney representing a claimant is not authorized to schedule the self-insured employer’s or carrier’s independent medical evaluations under this subsection. Neither the self-insured employer nor the carrier shall be responsible for scheduling any independent medical examination other than an employer or carrier independent medical examination.
(d) If the employee fails to appear for the independent medical examination scheduled by the employer or carrier without good cause and fails to advise the physician at least 24 hours before the scheduled date for the examination that he or she cannot appear, the employee is barred from recovering compensation for any period during which he or she has refused to submit to such examination. Further, the employee shall reimburse the employer or carrier 50 percent of the physician’s cancellation or no-show fee unless the employer or carrier that schedules the examination fails to timely provide to the employee a written confirmation of the date of the examination pursuant to paragraph (c) which includes an explanation of why he or she failed to appear. The employee may appeal to a judge of compensation claims for reimbursement when the employer or carrier withholds payment in excess of the authority granted by this section.
(e) No medical opinion other than the opinion of a medical advisor appointed by the judge of compensation claims or the department, an independent medical examiner, or an authorized treating provider is admissible in proceedings before the judges of compensation claims.
(f) Attorney’s fees incurred by an injured employee in connection with delay of or opposition to an independent medical examination, including, but not limited to, motions for protective orders, are not recoverable under this chapter.
(g) When a medical dispute arises, the parties may mutually agree to refer the employee to a licensed physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of the medical condition at issue for an independent medical examination and report. Such medical examination shall be referred to as a “consensus independent medical examination.” The findings and conclusions of such mutually agreed upon consensus independent medical examination shall be binding on the parties and shall constitute resolution of the medical dispute addressed in the independent consensus medical examination and in any proceeding. Agreement by the parties to a consensus independent medical examination shall not affect the employer’s, carrier’s, or employee’s entitlement to one independent medical examination per accident as provided for in this subsection.
(6) UTILIZATION REVIEW.—Carriers shall review all bills, invoices, and other claims for payment submitted by health care providers in order to identify overutilization and billing errors, including compliance with practice parameters and protocols of treatment established in accordance with this chapter, and may hire peer review consultants or conduct independent medical evaluations. Such consultants, including peer review organizations, are immune from liability in the execution of their functions under this subsection to the extent provided in s. 766.101. If a carrier finds that overutilization of medical services or a billing error has occurred, or there is a violation of the practice parameters and protocols of treatment established in accordance with this chapter, it must disallow or adjust payment for such services or error without order of a judge of compensation claims or the department, if the carrier, in making its determination, has complied with this section and rules adopted by the department. (7) UTILIZATION AND REIMBURSEMENT DISPUTES.—
(a) Any health care provider who elects to contest the disallowance or adjustment of payment by a carrier under subsection (6) must, within 45 days after receipt of notice of disallowance or adjustment of payment, petition the department to resolve the dispute. The petitioner must serve a copy of the petition on the carrier and on all affected parties by certified mail. The petition must be accompanied by all documents and records that support the allegations contained in the petition. Failure of a petitioner to submit such documentation to the department results in dismissal of the petition.
(b) The carrier must submit to the department within 30 days after receipt of the petition all documentation substantiating the carrier’s disallowance or adjustment. Failure of the carrier to timely submit such documentation to the department within 30 days constitutes a waiver of all objections to the petition.
(c) Within 120 days after receipt of all documentation, the department must provide to the petitioner, the carrier, and the affected parties a written determination of whether the carrier properly adjusted or disallowed payment. The department must be guided by standards and policies set forth in this chapter, including all applicable reimbursement schedules, practice parameters, and protocols of treatment, in rendering its determination.
(d) If the department finds an improper disallowance or improper adjustment of payment by an insurer, the insurer shall reimburse the health care provider, facility, insurer, or employer within 30 days, subject to the penalties provided in this subsection.
(e) The department shall adopt rules to carry out this subsection. The rules may include provisions for consolidating petitions filed by a petitioner and expanding the timetable for rendering a determination upon a consolidated petition.
(f) Any carrier that engages in a pattern or practice of arbitrarily or unreasonably disallowing or reducing payments to health care providers may be subject to one or more of the following penalties imposed by the department:
1. Repayment of the appropriate amount to the health care provider.
2. An administrative fine assessed by the department in an amount not to exceed $5,000 per instance of improperly disallowing or reducing payments.
3. Award of the health care provider’s costs, including a reasonable attorney fee, for prosecuting the petition.
(8) PATTERN OR PRACTICE OF OVERUTILIZATION.—
(a) Carriers must report to the department all instances of overutilization including, but not limited to, all instances in which the carrier disallows or adjusts payment or a determination has been made that the provided or recommended treatment is in excess of the practice parameters and protocols of treatment established in this chapter. The department shall determine whether a pattern or practice of overutilization exists.
(b) If the department determines that a health care provider has engaged in a pattern or practice of overutilization or a violation of this chapter or rules adopted by the department, including a pattern or practice of providing treatment in excess of the practice parameters or protocols of treatment, it may impose one or more of the following penalties:
1. An order barring the provider from payment under this chapter;
2. Deauthorization of care under review;
3. Denial of payment for care rendered in the future;
4. An administrative fine of $5,000; and
5. Notification of and review by the appropriate licensing authority pursuant to s. 440.106(3). (9) EXPERT MEDICAL ADVISORS.—
(a) The department shall certify expert medical advisors in each specialty to assist the department within the advisor’s area of expertise as provided in this section. The department shall, in a manner prescribed by rule, in certifying, recertifying, or decertifying an expert medical advisor, consider the qualifications, training, impartiality, and commitment of the health care provider to the provision of quality medical care at a reasonable cost. As a prerequisite for certification or recertification, the department shall require, at a minimum, that an expert medical advisor have specialized workers’ compensation training or experience under the workers’ compensation system of this state and board certification or board eligibility.
(b) The department shall contract with one or more entities that employ, contract with, or otherwise secure expert medical advisors to provide peer review or expert medical consultation, opinions, and testimony to the department or to a judge of compensation claims in connection with resolving disputes relating to reimbursement, differing opinions of health care providers, and health care and physician services rendered under this chapter, including utilization issues. The department shall by rule establish the qualifications of expert medical advisors, including training and experience in the workers’ compensation system in the state and the expert medical advisor’s knowledge of and commitment to the standards of care, practice parameters, and protocols established pursuant to this chapter. Expert medical advisors contracting with the department shall, as a term of such contract, agree to provide consultation or services in accordance with the timetables set forth in this chapter and to abide by rules adopted by the department, including, but not limited to, rules pertaining to procedures for review of the services rendered by health care providers and preparation of reports and testimony or recommendations for submission to the department or the judge of compensation claims.
(c) If there is disagreement in the opinions of the health care providers, if two health care providers disagree on medical evidence supporting the employee’s complaints or the need for additional medical treatment, or if two health care providers disagree that the employee is able to return to work, the department may, and the judge of compensation claims shall, upon his or her own motion or within 15 days after receipt of a written request by either the injured employee, the employer, or the carrier, order the injured employee to be evaluated by an expert medical advisor. The injured employee and the employer or carrier may agree on the health care provider to serve as an expert medical advisor. If the parties do not agree, the judge of compensation claims shall select an expert medical advisor from the department’s list of certified expert medical advisors. If a certified medical advisor within the relevant medical specialty is unavailable, the judge of compensation claims shall appoint any otherwise qualified health care provider to serve as an expert medical advisor without obtaining the department’s certification. The opinion of the expert medical advisor is presumed to be correct unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary as determined by the judge of compensation claims. The expert medical advisor appointed to conduct the evaluation shall have free and complete access to the medical records of the employee. An employee who fails to report to and cooperate with such evaluation forfeits entitlement to compensation during the period of failure to report or cooperate.
(d) The expert medical advisor must complete his or her evaluation and issue his or her report to the department or to the judge of compensation claims within 15 days after receipt of all medical records. The expert medical advisor must furnish a copy of the report to the carrier and to the employee.
(e) An expert medical advisor is not liable under any theory of recovery for evaluations performed under this section without a showing of fraud or malice. The protections of s. 766.101 apply to any officer, employee, or agent of the department and to any officer, employee, or agent of any entity with which the department has contracted under this subsection.
(f) If the department or a judge of compensation claims orders the services of an expert medical advisor to resolve a dispute under this section, the party requesting such examination must compensate the advisor for his or her time in accordance with a schedule adopted by the department. If the employee prevails in a dispute as determined in an order by a judge of compensation claims based upon the expert medical advisor’s findings, the employer or carrier shall pay for the costs of such expert medical advisor. If a judge of compensation claims, upon his or her motion, finds that an expert medical advisor is needed to resolve the dispute, the carrier must compensate the advisor for his or her time in accordance with a schedule adopted by the department. The department may assess a penalty not to exceed $500 against any carrier that fails to timely compensate an advisor in accordance with this section.
(10) WITNESS FEES.—Any health care provider who gives a deposition shall be allowed a witness fee. The amount charged by the witness may not exceed $200 per hour. An expert witness who has never provided direct professional services to a party but has merely reviewed medical records and provided an expert opinion or has provided only direct professional services that were unrelated to the workers’ compensation case may not be allowed a witness fee in excess of $200 per day.
(11) INVESTIGATION; MONITORING; JURISDICTION.—
(a) The department may investigate health care providers to determine whether providers are complying with this chapter and with rules adopted by the department, whether the providers are engaging in overutilization, whether providers are engaging in improper billing practices, and whether providers are adhering to practice parameters and protocols established in accordance with this chapter. If the department finds that a health care provider has improperly billed, overutilized, or failed to comply with department rules or the requirements of this chapter, including, but not limited to, practice parameters and protocols established in accordance with this chapter, it must notify the provider of its findings and may determine that the health care provider may not receive payment from the carrier or may impose penalties as set forth in subsection (8) or other sections of this chapter. If the health care provider has received payment from a carrier for services that were improperly billed, that constitute overutilization, or that were outside practice parameters or protocols established in accordance with this chapter, it must return those payments to the carrier. The department may assess a penalty not to exceed $500 for each overpayment that is not refunded within 30 days after notification of overpayment by the department or carrier.
(b) The department shall monitor carriers as provided in this chapter.
(c) The department has exclusive jurisdiction to decide any matters concerning reimbursement, to resolve any overutilization dispute under subsection (7), and to decide any question concerning overutilization under subsection (8), which question or dispute arises after January 1, 1994.
(d) The following department actions do not constitute agency action subject to review under ss. 120.569 and 120.57 and do not constitute actions subject to s. 120.56: referral by the entity responsible for utilization review; a decision by the department to refer a matter to a peer review committee; establishment by a health care provider or entity of procedures by which a peer review committee reviews the rendering of health care services; and the review proceedings, report, and recommendation of the peer review committee. (12) CREATION OF THREE-MEMBER PANEL; GUIDES OF MAXIMUM REIMBURSEMENT ALLOWANCES.—
(a) A three-member panel is created, consisting of the Chief Financial Officer, or the Chief Financial Officer’s designee, and two members to be appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate, one member who, on account of present or previous vocation, employment, or affiliation, shall be classified as a representative of employers, the other member who, on account of previous vocation, employment, or affiliation, shall be classified as a representative of employees. The panel shall determine statewide schedules of maximum reimbursement allowances for medically necessary treatment, care, and attendance provided by physicians, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, work-hardening programs, pain programs, and durable medical equipment. The maximum reimbursement allowances for inpatient hospital care shall be based on a schedule of per diem rates, to be approved by the three-member panel no later than March 1, 1994, to be used in conjunction with a precertification manual as determined by the department, including maximum hours in which an outpatient may remain in observation status, which shall not exceed 23 hours. All compensable charges for hospital outpatient care shall be reimbursed at 75 percent of usual and customary charges, except as otherwise provided by this subsection. Annually, the three-member panel shall adopt schedules of maximum reimbursement allowances for physicians, hospital inpatient care, hospital outpatient care, ambulatory surgical centers, work-hardening programs, and pain programs. An individual physician, hospital, ambulatory surgical center, pain program, or work-hardening program shall be reimbursed either the agreed-upon contract price or the maximum reimbursement allowance in the appropriate schedule.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to increase the schedule of maximum reimbursement allowances for selected physicians effective January 1, 2004, and to pay for the increases through reductions in payments to hospitals. Revisions developed pursuant to this subsection are limited to the following:
1. Payments for outpatient physical, occupational, and speech therapy provided by hospitals shall be reduced to the schedule of maximum reimbursement allowances for these services which applies to nonhospital providers.
2. Payments for scheduled outpatient nonemergency radiological and clinical laboratory services that are not provided in conjunction with a surgical procedure shall be reduced to the schedule of maximum reimbursement allowances for these services which applies to nonhospital providers.
3. Outpatient reimbursement for scheduled surgeries shall be reduced from 75 percent of charges to 60 percent of charges.
4. Maximum reimbursement for a physician licensed under chapter 458 or chapter 459 shall be increased to 110 percent of the reimbursement allowed by Medicare, using appropriate codes and modifiers or the medical reimbursement level adopted by the three-member panel as of January 1, 2003, whichever is greater.
5. Maximum reimbursement for surgical procedures shall be increased to 140 percent of the reimbursement allowed by Medicare or the medical reimbursement level adopted by the three-member panel as of January 1, 2003, whichever is greater.
(c) As to reimbursement for a prescription medication, the reimbursement amount for a prescription shall be the average wholesale price plus $4.18 for the dispensing fee. For repackaged or relabeled prescription medications dispensed by a dispensing practitioner as provided in s. 465.0276, the fee schedule for reimbursement shall be 112.5 percent of the average wholesale price, plus $8.00 for the dispensing fee. For purposes of this subsection, the average wholesale price shall be calculated by multiplying the number of units dispensed times the per-unit average wholesale price set by the original manufacturer of the underlying drug dispensed by the practitioner, based upon the published manufacturer’s average wholesale price published in the Medi-Span Master Drug Database as of the date of dispensing. All pharmaceutical claims submitted for repackaged or relabeled prescription medications must include the National Drug Code of the original manufacturer. Fees for pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical services shall be reimbursable at the applicable fee schedule amount except where the employer or carrier, or a service company, third party administrator, or any entity acting on behalf of the employer or carrier directly contracts with the provider seeking reimbursement for a lower amount. (d) Reimbursement for all fees and other charges for such treatment, care, and attendance, including treatment, care, and attendance provided by any hospital or other health care provider, ambulatory surgical center, work-hardening program, or pain program, must not exceed the amounts provided by the uniform schedule of maximum reimbursement allowances as determined by the panel or as otherwise provided in this section. This subsection also applies to independent medical examinations performed by health care providers under this chapter. In determining the uniform schedule, the panel shall first approve the data which it finds representative of prevailing charges in the state for similar treatment, care, and attendance of injured persons. Each health care provider, health care facility, ambulatory surgical center, work-hardening program, or pain program receiving workers’ compensation payments shall maintain records verifying their usual charges. In establishing the uniform schedule of maximum reimbursement allowances, the panel must consider:
1. The levels of reimbursement for similar treatment, care, and attendance made by other health care programs or third-party providers;
2. The impact upon cost to employers for providing a level of reimbursement for treatment, care, and attendance which will ensure the availability of treatment, care, and attendance required by injured workers;
3. The financial impact of the reimbursement allowances upon health care providers and health care facilities, including trauma centers as defined in s. 395.4001, and its effect upon their ability to make available to injured workers such medically necessary remedial treatment, care, and attendance. The uniform schedule of maximum reimbursement allowances must be reasonable, must promote health care cost containment and efficiency with respect to the workers’ compensation health care delivery system, and must be sufficient to ensure availability of such medically necessary remedial treatment, care, and attendance to injured workers; and
4. The most recent average maximum allowable rate of increase for hospitals determined by the Health Care Board under chapter 408.
(e) In addition to establishing the uniform schedule of maximum reimbursement allowances, the panel shall:
1. Take testimony, receive records, and collect data to evaluate the adequacy of the workers’ compensation fee schedule, nationally recognized fee schedules and alternative methods of reimbursement to health care providers and health care facilities for inpatient and outpatient treatment and care.
2. Survey health care providers and health care facilities to determine the availability and accessibility of workers’ compensation health care delivery systems for injured workers.
3. Survey carriers to determine the estimated impact on carrier costs and workers’ compensation premium rates by implementing changes to the carrier reimbursement schedule or implementing alternative reimbursement methods.
4. Submit recommendations on or before January 15, 2017, and biennially thereafter, to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on methods to improve the workers’ compensation health care delivery system.
The department, as requested, shall provide data to the panel, including, but not limited to, utilization trends in the workers’ compensation health care delivery system. The department shall provide the panel with an annual report regarding the resolution of medical reimbursement disputes and any actions pursuant to subsection (8). The department shall provide administrative support and service to the panel to the extent requested by the panel. For prescription medication purchased under the requirements of this subsection, a dispensing practitioner shall not possess such medication unless payment has been made by the practitioner, the practitioner’s professional practice, or the practitioner’s practice management company or employer to the supplying manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, or drug repackager within 60 days of the dispensing practitioner taking possession of that medication.
(13) PAYMENT OF MEDICAL FEES.—
(a) Except for emergency care treatment, fees for medical services are payable only to a health care provider authorized to render remedial treatment, care, or attendance under this chapter. Carriers shall pay, disallow, or deny payment to health care providers in the manner and at times set forth in this chapter. A health care provider may not collect or receive a fee from an injured employee within this state, except as otherwise provided by this chapter. Such providers have recourse against the employer or carrier for payment for services rendered in accordance with this chapter. Payment to health care providers or physicians shall be subject to the medical fee schedule and applicable practice parameters and protocols, regardless of whether the health care provider or claimant is asserting that the payment should be made.
(b) Fees charged for remedial treatment, care, and attendance, except for independent medical examinations and consensus independent medical examinations, may not exceed the applicable fee schedules adopted under this chapter and department rule. Notwithstanding any other provision in this chapter, if a physician or health care provider specifically agrees in writing to follow identified procedures aimed at providing quality medical care to injured workers at reasonable costs, deviations from established fee schedules shall be permitted. Written agreements warranting deviations may include, but are not limited to, the timely scheduling of appointments for injured workers, participating in return-to-work programs with injured workers’ employers, expediting the reporting of treatments provided to injured workers, and agreeing to continuing education, utilization review, quality assurance, precertification, and case management systems that are designed to provide needed treatment for injured workers.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, following overall maximum medical improvement from an injury compensable under this chapter, the employee is obligated to pay a copayment of $10 per visit for medical services. The copayment shall not apply to emergency care provided to the employee.
(14) PRACTICE PARAMETERS.—The practice parameters and protocols mandated under this chapter shall be the practice parameters and protocols adopted by the United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in effect on January 1, 2003.
(15) STANDARDS OF CARE.—The following standards of care shall be followed in providing medical care under this chapter:
(a) Abnormal anatomical findings alone, in the absence of objective relevant medical findings, shall not be an indicator of injury or illness, a justification for the provision of remedial medical care or the assignment of restrictions, or a foundation for limitations.
(b) At all times during evaluation and treatment, the provider shall act on the premise that returning to work is an integral part of the treatment plan. The goal of removing all restrictions and limitations as early as appropriate shall be part of the treatment plan on a continuous basis. The assignment of restrictions and limitations shall be reviewed with each patient exam and upon receipt of new information, such as progress reports from physical therapists and other providers. Consideration shall be given to upgrading or removing the restrictions and limitations with each patient exam, based upon the presence or absence of objective relevant medical findings.
(c) Reasonable necessary medical care of injured employees shall in all situations:
1. Utilize a high intensity, short duration treatment approach that focuses on early activation and restoration of function whenever possible.
2. Include reassessment of the treatment plans, regimes, therapies, prescriptions, and functional limitations or restrictions prescribed by the provider every 30 days.
3. Be focused on treatment of the individual employee’s specific clinical dysfunction or status and shall not be based upon nondescript diagnostic labels.
All treatment shall be inherently scientifically logical, and the evaluation or treatment procedure must match the documented physiologic and clinical problem. Treatment shall match the type, intensity, and duration of service required by the problem identified.
(16) Failure to comply with this section shall be considered a violation of this chapter and is subject to penalties as provided for in s. 440.525.