Injured At Work And In Need of A Massage?

Posted on Monday, January 22nd, 2018 at 6:20 pm    

Over the years it has become quite common, if not the norm, for injured workers to initially seek treatment with chiropractors before being referred to specialists like orthopedic surgeons, pain management doctors and neurosurgeons for more serious injuries.  There are many reasons for why more and more workers are choosing to see chiropractors, however, perhaps the most logical explanation is that the majority of workers’ compensation claimants do need medical attention but do not necessarily need or want to see a surgeon or pain doctor right away.

Many chiropractic offices, in addition to offering chiropractic manipulations and physical therapy on site, also offer massage therapy treatment to those patients who have been hurt at work.  However, there had previously been some debate about whether or not the workers’ compensation insurance companies were required to pay for massage therapy treatment, and if so, under what conditions.  Well, at the end of 2017 the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued a decision in Schriver v. WCAB (Penn DOT), which put an end to the debate and set forth the necessary requirements for massage therapy treatment to be covered by workers’ compensation.

 

The injured worker in Schriver was receiving treatment with a chiropractor, who referred the worker to a licensed massage therapist in his office.  The claimant received massage therapy treatments approximately once every three weeks.  He paid out of pocket and thereafter submitted the receipts to the employer’s attorney, however, the employer/insurance carrier never reimbursed the worker for the massage therapy costs, which resulted in the claimant filing review and penalty petitions in accordance with the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.

The Workers’ Compensation Judge initially granted the workers’ petitions, but the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board reversed, resulting in the claimant filing an appeal to the Commonwealth Court.  On appeal, the Commonwealth Court noted that Section 306(f.1)(1)(i) of the Workers’ Compensation Act mandates that the employer pay for services rendered by physicians or other health care providers… as and when needed.  Section 109 of the Act defines health care provider as any person licensed or otherwise authorized by the Commonwealth to provide health care services and an officer, employee or agent of such person acting in the course and scope of employment or agency related to health care services.

The Court additionally recognized that in 2008 Pennsylvania enacted the Massage Therapy Law, which became effective in 2010 and established a State Board of Massage Therapy which then established qualifications for massage therapist licensing in Pennsylvania.  In Schriver, there was no dispute that the massage therapist who treated the worker held a valid massage therapy license.  The Court held that if the massage therapist was providing massage therapy services for the injured worker as the chiropractor’s agent or employee then the employer/insurance carrier was liable for those expenses.  Importantly, the Court stated that the Act does not expressly limit health care providers to medical treatment, to the exclusion of methodologies intended to enhance an injured worker’s health and well-being.  Thus, the Court held that as long as the massage therapist is supervised or has an employment or agency relationship with a licensed health care provider such as a chiropractor, an employer/carrier is liable for expenses related to the health care services rendered.

This case represents a significant victory for workers’ compensation claimants who wish to undergo massage therapy in connection with their treatment for their work injuries.  It is important to note, however, that this holding does not mean that an injured worker can simply contact a local spa or massage therapist and arrange for an appointment with the expectation that the workers’ compensation insurance company will pay for the massage therapy.  Rather, the massage therapy must be done by a massage therapist who is either supervised by a licensed health care provider or is an employee or agent of a licensed health care provider.

If you or a loved one have been injured at work, contact the Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC or call 215-875-7030.  We’re here to help!

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