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A WCAB panel in the case of Crispin Mendez-Correa v Vevoda Dairy elaborated on the elements necessary to hold an applicant personally liable for payment of his own self procured medical expenses for treatment outside of an MPN. The panel concluded that although the employer is not responsible for payment of the treatment, similarly the applicant is not personally liable for the treatment either unless he “intended” at the time to treat at his own expense.

This was an admitted injury claim that occurred in Humbolt County. Applicant obtained treatment within the MPN until he was MMI. Applicant then moved to Southern California where he obtained an attorney who designated Khalid Ahmed, M.D., as primary treating physician notwithstanding defendant’s objection that the doctor was not in defendant’s MPN. Numerous other non-MPN providers subsequently filed treatment, medical legal and other liens in the case. There was no evidence at trial that applicant chose to go outside of the MPN “at his own expense” instead of using the employer provided care. Indeed, the record did not reflect why he went outside the MPN except that his attorney sent him to a non MPN physician. He was ultimately awarded 7% permanent disability and future medical care.

With respect to the treatment liens, the WCJ stated that “the applicant, in designating Dr. Khalid Ahmed as his non-MPN PTP, obtained self-procured medical treatment outside defendant’s MPN at his own expense under Labor Code section 4605.” The WCAB panel agreed that the employer was not responsible, but reversed indicating “that the WCJ incorrectly concluded that any and all medical treatment obtained outside of a properly noticed MPN is necessarily self-procured by the injured worker at his own expense pursuant to section 4605. The WCAB panel concluded “that is not the law.”

When a provider treats an industrially injured worker and takes certain actions such as submitting reports and billing statements to the employers’ insurance carrier, accepting payment from that carrier and/or seeking to obtain payment by filing a lien claim, the WCAB obtains exclusive jurisdiction over the payment dispute. Regardless of whether a lien claim is filed, the injured worker is only liable for medical treatment of an industrial injury that he or she intended to self-procure at his or her own expense pursuant to section 4605. The Appeals Board is authorized by section 4903 to “hear and determine any issue growing out of a controversy as to whether or not the physician was supplied by the employer or chosen by the employee at his own expense.” However, the authority to determine if a bill is the injured worker’s obligation under section 4605 is not the same as exercising jurisdiction under section 4903 to allow and determine a lien against compensation.

“If applicant intentionally self-procured medical treatment pursuant to section 4605 he would be personally liable under that section for the cost of the treatment, and the Appeals Board would have no jurisdiction to determine its reasonable value or to hold defendant liable for it as part of the applicant’s workers’ compensation.” .. “However, in this case there is no evidence that applicant intended to self-procure medical treatment from any lien claimants at his own expense pursuant to section 4605 following his move to Southern California.”