(a) Medical expenses shall be limited to the usual, customary and reasonable charges as found by the Board pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 34-9-205. Employer/insurers may automatically conform charges according to the fee schedule adopted by the Board and the charges listed in the fee schedule shall be presumed usual, customary, and reasonable and shall be paid within 30 days from the date of receipt of charges. Employer/insurers shall not unilaterally change any CPT-4 code of the provider. All automatically conformed charges according to the fee schedule adopted by the Board shall be for the CPT-4 code listed by the provider. In situations where charges have been reduced or payment of a bill denied, the carrier, self-insured employer, or third party administrator shall provide an Explanation of Benefits with payment information explaining why the charge has been reduced or disallowed, along with a narrative explanation of each Explanation of Benefits code used. In all claims, any health service provider whose fee is reduced to conform to the fee schedule and who disputes that fee, or employer/insurers who dispute the CPT-4 code used by the provider for services rendered shall, in the first instance, request peer review of the charges, and may thereafter request a mediation conference or an evidentiary hearing by filing Form WC-14 with the Board. For charges not contained in the fee schedule and which are disputed within 30 days as not being reasonable, usual and customary, the aggrieved party shall follow the procedures provided in subsection (b).
(1) A medical provider or an employee who has incurred expenses for healthcare goods and services or other medical expenses shall submit the charges to the employer or its workers’ compensation carrier for payment within one year of the date of service. In the event that the claim or the expense is controverted, the medical expenses or request for reimbursement must be submitted for payment within one year of the date of service or within one year of the date that the claim is accepted or established as compensable, whichever is later. Failure by the medical provider to submit expenses within the time prescribed shall result in waiver of such expenses.
(2) Any challenge by a medical provider to the amount of payment for goods, services, or expenses shall be submitted to the payor within 120 days of payment. Failure by a medical provider to challenge the amount of payment of such goods, services, or expenses within 120 days shall result in the waiver of additional payment.
(1) An employer or insurer shall pay when due all charges deemed reasonable, and follow the procedures set forth in subsection (2) for review of only those specified charges which are disputed.
(2) For charges not contained in the fee schedule and which are disputed as not being the usual, customary and reasonable charges prevailing in the State of Georgia, the employer, insurer, or physician shall file a request for peer review with a peer review organization authorized by the Board within 30 days of the receipt of charges by the employer/insurer, and shall serve a copy of the request and supporting documentation upon all parties and counsel. A request for peer review of chiropractic charges or treatment shall attach to the application 10 copies of the charges and all of the reports dealing with the treatment of the injured employee. A request for peer review of any other treatment or charges shall attach to the application two copies of the charges and all of the reports dealing with the treatment of the injured employee.
The peer review committees approved by the Board are as follows: Medical Directors Solutions, LLC; Georgia Psychological Association; Georgia Chiropractic Association, Inc.; Appropriate Utilization Group, LLC; and such other committees as the Board has posted as so designated at its Atlanta office.
(3) Unless peer review is requested as set forth in Rule 203(c)(2), all reasonable charges for medical, surgical, hospital and pharmacy goods and services shall be payable by the employer or its worker’s compensation insurer within 30 days from the date that the employer or the insurer receives the charges and the medical reports required by the Board. Failure of the health care provider to include with its submission of charges the reports or other documents required by the Board, constitutes a defense for the employer or insurer’s failure to pay the submitted charges within 30 days of receipt; however, the employer or insurer must submit to the health care provider written notice indicating the need for further documentation within 30 days of receipt of the charges and failure to do so will be deemed a waiver of the right to defend a claim for failure to pay such charges in a timely fashion on the ground that the charges were not properly accompanied by required documentation. Such waiver shall not extend to any other defense the employer and insurer may have with respect to a claim of untimely payment.
If any charges for health care goods or services are not paid when due, penalties shall be added to such charges and paid at the same time as, and in addition to, the charges claimed for the health care goods and services. For any payment of charges made more than 30 days after their due date, but paid within 60 days of such date, there shall be added to such charges an amount equal to 10% of the amount due. For any payment of charges made more than 60 days after the due date, but paid within 90 days of such date, there shall be added to such charges an amount equal to 20% of the amount due. For any charges not paid within 90 days of the due date, in addition to the 20% add-on penalty, the employer or insurer shall pay interest on the combined total in an amount equal to 12% per annum from the 91st day after the date the charges were due until full payment is made. All such penalties and interest shall be paid to the provider of the health care goods or services.
(4) The employer, insurer, or physician requesting review must comply with the requirements of the statute, Board Rules, and rules of the appropriate peer review committee before the Board will rule on any disputed charges.
(5) If there is no appropriate peer review committee, the party requesting review may request a mediation conference by filing Form WC-14 with the Board. The charges submitted which conform to the list as published by the Board shall be prima facie proof of the usual, customary, and reasonable charges for the medical services provided.
(6) The employer/insurer shall, within 30 days from the date that a decision regarding the peer review of charges or treatment is issued by a peer review organization, make payment of disputed charges based upon the recommendations, or request a mediation conference or an evidentiary hearing. The peer review committee shall serve a copy of its decision upon the employee if unrepresented, or the employee’s attorney. A physician whose fee has been reduced by the peer review committee shall have 30 days from the date that the recommendation is mailed to request a mediation or hearing. In the event of a hearing or mediation conference, the recommendations of the peer review committee shall be evidence of the usual, customary, and reasonable charges.
(7) In cases where the peer review committee recommends that the fee be reduced, the employer/insurer shall pay the physician the fee amount recommended by the peer review committee less the filing costs initially paid by the employer/insurer. In the event the peer review committee recommends the entire fee be disallowed, the employer/insurer may automatically deduct the filing costs for the peer review from future allowable expenses submitted by the physician for treatment or services rendered to the employee arising out of the same injury.
(d) Medical expenses shall include the reasonable cost of attendant care that is directed by the treating physician, during travel or convalescence.
(e) Medical expenses shall include but are not limited to the reasonable cost of travel between the employee’s home and the place of examination or treatment or physical therapy, or the pharmacy. When travel is by private vehicle the rate of mileage shall be 40 cents per mile. This rate is subject to change based upon changes in fuel costs. Travel expenses beyond the employee’s home city shall include the actual cost of meals and lodging. Travel expenses shall further include the actual cost of meals when total elapsed time of the trip to obtain outpatient treatment exceeds four hours. Cost of meals shall not exceed $30 per day.