(a) At the request of an insurance carrier or an employee, or on the commissioner’s own order, the commissioner may order a medical examination to resolve any question about:
(1) the impairment caused by the compensable injury;
(2) the attainment of maximum medical improvement;
(3) the extent of the employee’s compensable injury;
(4) whether the injured employee’s disability is a direct result of the work-related injury;
(5) the ability of the employee to return to work; or
(6) issues similar to those described by Subdivisions (1)-(5).
(b) Except as provided by Section 408.1225(f), a medical examination requested under Subsection (a) shall be performed by the next available doctor on the division’s list of certified designated doctors whose credentials are appropriate for the area of the body affected by the injury and the injured employee’s diagnosis as determined by commissioner rule. The division shall assign a designated doctor not later than the 10th day after the date on which the request under Subsection (a) is approved, and the examination must be conducted not later than the 21st day after the date on which the commissioner issues the order under Subsection (a). An examination under this section may not be conducted more frequently than every 60 days, unless good cause for more frequent examinations exists, as defined by commissioner rules.
(b-1) A designated doctor, other than a chiropractor, is subject to Section 408.0043. A designated doctor who is a chiropractor is subject to Section 408.0045. To the extent of a conflict between this section and Section 408.0043 or 408.0045, this section controls.
(c) The treating doctor and the insurance carrier are both responsible for sending to the designated doctor all of the injured employee’s medical records relating to the issue to be evaluated by the designated doctor that are in their possession. The treating doctor and insurance carrier may send the records without a signed release from the employee. The designated doctor is authorized to receive the employee’s confidential medical records to assist in the resolution of disputes. The treating doctor and insurance carrier may also send the designated doctor an analysis of the injured employee’s medical condition, functional abilities, and return-to-work opportunities.
(d) To avoid undue influence on a person selected as a designated doctor under this section, and except as provided by Subsection (c), only the injured employee or an appropriate member of the division’s staff may communicate with the designated doctor about the case regarding the injured employee’s medical condition or history before the examination of the injured employee by the designated doctor. After that examination is completed, communication with the designated doctor regarding the injured employee’s medical condition or history may be made only through appropriate division staff members. The designated doctor may initiate communication with any doctor or health care provider who has previously treated or examined the injured employee for the work-related injury or with peer reviewers identified by the insurance carrier.
(e) The designated doctor shall report to the division. The report of the designated doctor has presumptive weight unless the preponderance of the evidence is to the contrary. An employer may make a bona fide offer of employment subject to Sections 408.103(e) and 408.144(c) based on the designated doctor’s report.
(f) Unless otherwise ordered by the commissioner, the insurance carrier shall pay benefits based on the opinion of the designated doctor during the pendency of any dispute. If an insurance carrier is not satisfied with the opinion rendered by a designated doctor under this section, the insurance carrier may request the commissioner to order an employee to attend an examination by a doctor selected by the insurance carrier.
(f-1) The subsequent injury fund shall reimburse an insurance carrier for any overpayment of benefits made by the insurance carrier under Subsection (f) based on an opinion rendered by a designated doctor if that opinion is reversed or modified by a final arbitration award or a final order or decision of the commissioner or a court. The commissioner shall adopt rules to provide for a periodic reimbursement schedule, providing reimbursement at least annually.
(f-2) An employee required to be examined by a designated doctor may request a medical examination to determine maximum medical improvement and the employee’s impairment rating from the treating doctor or from another doctor to whom the employee is referred by the treating doctor if:
(1) the designated doctor’s opinion is the employee’s first evaluation of maximum medical improvement and impairment rating; and
(2) the employee is not satisfied with the designated doctor’s opinion.
(f-3) The commissioner shall provide the insurance carrier and the employee with reasonable time to obtain and present the opinion of a doctor selected under Subsection (f) or (f-2) before the commissioner makes a decision on the merits of the issue.
(f-4) The commissioner by rule shall adopt guidelines prescribing the circumstances under which an examination by the employee’s treating doctor or another doctor to whom the employee is referred by the treating doctor to determine any issue under Subsection (a), other than an examination under Subsection (f-2), may be appropriate.
(g) Except as otherwise provided by this subsection, an injured employee is entitled to have a doctor of the employee’s choice present at an examination requested by an insurance carrier under Subsection (f). The insurance carrier shall pay a fee set by the commissioner to the doctor selected by the employee. If the injured employee is subject to a workers’ compensation health care network under Chapter 1305, Insurance Code, the doctor must be the employee’s treating doctor.
(h) The insurance carrier shall pay for:
(1) an examination required under Subsection (a), (f), or (f-2), unless otherwise prohibited by this subtitle or by an order or rule of the commissioner; and
(2) the reasonable expenses incident to the employee in submitting to the examination.
(i) An employee who, without good cause as determined by the commissioner, fails or refuses to appear at the time scheduled for an examination under Subsection (a) or (f) commits an administrative violation. An injured employee may not be fined more than $10,000 for a violation of this subsection.
(j) An employee is not entitled to temporary income benefits, and an insurance carrier is authorized to suspend the payment of temporary income benefits, during and for a period in which the employee fails to submit to an examination required by Subsection (a) or (f) unless the commissioner determines that the employee had good cause for the failure to submit to the examination. The commissioner may order temporary income benefits to be paid for the period for which the commissioner determined that the employee had good cause. The commissioner by rule shall ensure that:
(1) an employee receives reasonable notice of an examination and the insurance carrier’s basis for suspension; and
(2) the employee is provided a reasonable opportunity to reschedule an examination for good cause.
(k) If the report of a designated doctor indicates that an employee has reached maximum medical improvement or is otherwise able to return to work immediately, the insurance carrier may suspend or reduce the payment of temporary income benefits immediately.
(l) A person who makes a frivolous request for a medical examination under Subsection (a) or (f), as determined by the commissioner, commits an administrative violation.
Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1456, § 5.02, eff. June 17, 2001.
Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 265 (H.B. 7), § 3.080, eff. September 1, 2005.
Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1150 (S.B. 1169), § 1, eff. September 1, 2007.
Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1218 (H.B. 2004), § 3, eff. September 1, 2007.
Acts 2011, 82nd Leg., R.S., Ch. 1162 (H.B. 2605), § 11, eff. September 1, 2011.