Can I Refuse a Nurse Case Manager?

Nurse case managers are part of the workers’ comp process, hired by L&I or your employer. They might seem helpful at first, claiming to be the bridge between you, your doctor, and the insurance. But don’t be fooled. Their main goal isn’t to speed up your recovery. Their main goal is to speed up your case. So they often push doctors to end your care and benefits early. It’s crucial to know your rights regarding these nurse case managers.

There are Two Types of Nurse Case Managers

Both types are introduced to your case with the same line: “They’re here to help manage workers’ compensation claims and your treatment to ensure everything goes smoothly.” Their real job is to keep health care costs down for the insurer or your employer.  This means less care for you.

Depending on your employer’s insurance, you might have to deal with one of two types of nurse case managers:

  • L&I Nurse Case Managers: These nurses work directly for the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). They are assigned to your case by the state. When L&I does this, it is generally to assist with complicated and severe medical situations. Most of these nurse case managers are good people trying to help.
  • Self-Insured Employer Nurse Case Managers: Nurse case managers hired by self-insured companies are generally there to spy on you, come between you and your doctor, report back to the employer, and help close your claim.

The Reality of Nurse Case Managers

Despite their title, nurse case managers focus more on the financial side of your claim than your health. They often work to limit your treatment and benefits. 

If you think the nurse case manager is not working in your best interest, you’re probably right. 

If there is a self insured nurse case manager assigned to your case, watch out. Here’s why:

  • Their main aim is to save money for L&I or your employer, not to ensure you get the best possible care.
  • They may try to influence your doctor’s decisions, pushing for less treatment or declaring you ready to return to work before you truly are.

This role conflict can lead to a significant impact on your recovery and benefits. Understanding this dynamic is key to protecting your interests.

What is a Nurse Case Manager?

Nurse Case Managers are health workers working for L&I or your employer. They want to attend your medical appointments. You can stop this because medical privacy is your right. They want to influence your doctor. They will ask for information about your condition, treatment, and prognosis. They are there to pass this info on to the claims manager. They will suggest to the doctor things to close your claim.

Claims Managers are paid employees of the organization that manages your claim. Nurse case managers sometimes think they are claims managers. 

In state fund cases, they are paid by Labor & Industries. In self-insured cases, they are either in-house employees of your employer or they are agents of your employer who work for a service company. 

These people have a lot of power over your claim. 

They decide  whether or not you get medical care, time loss payments, vocational training, and a settlement or a pension. 

Most claims managers and nurse case managers are not there to help you. They are there to help your employer save money. The only way the employer saves money is to not pay it to you.

So, If They Aren’t There to Help You, Can You Refuse a Nurse Case Manager Altogether?

Refusing to have a nurse case manager involved in your workers’ compensation case altogether can be challenging, primarily because their assignment is often a decision made by the self-insured employer managing your claims process. 

However, you have rights and options to limit their involvement, especially regarding your privacy and direct healthcare interactions.

You Have Rights When It Comes to Nurse Case Managers and Medical Appointments

As an injured employee, you have rights when it comes to dealing with nurse case managers. Knowing these rights can help you maintain control over your treatment and the information shared about your case.

  • You can say no to having a nurse case manager join you during medical appointments. This is your right to privacy. You need to feel comfortable and open with your doctor without feeling watched. Nurse case managers have no right to attend your medical exams or tell you what to do, but if you let them do it, then they will. 
  • While you can’t stop the nurse case manager from talking to your doctor outside of appointments, you can tell your doctor you prefer they not discuss your case with the nurse case manager. Your doctor does not have to talk to a nurse case manager, but if you let them do it, they probably will.

How an Injured Worker Can Handle Nurse Case Manager Interferences

It’s your medical treatment and your claim. Make your preferences clear from the start to prevent unwanted interference and ensure your care remains between you and your healthcare provider.

If a nurse case manager is assigned to your case, here are steps you can take:

  • Communicate Your Wishes: Politely inform the nurse case manager that you prefer they do not attend your medical appointments. You can do this directly or through your lawyer.
  • Inform Your Doctor: Inform your doctor that you’re uncomfortable with the nurse case manager’s involvement in your care. You can request that your doctor not share detailed information with them or limit their involvement.
  • Document your request for privacy and limited involvement from the nurse case manager in your medical records.
  • Advocate Through Legal Representation: A lawyer specializing in workers’ compensation can help advocate for your interests, including communicating your preferences about the nurse case manager’s role and involvement. They can also ensure that your rights are protected and that the nurse case manager’s involvement does not negatively impact your claim or care.
  • Contact the Insurance Company or Self-Insured Employer: You or your representative can express concerns directly to the entity managing your claim, outlining why you believe the nurse case manager’s involvement is unnecessary or detrimental to your recovery. This may not lead to the removal of the nurse case manager, but it can result in limitations on their role.

Many Medical Providers Feel Pressured by Nurse Case Managers, Even Though They Might Not Show It 

This pressure can lead to changes in your care plan that aren’t in your best interest. Remember:

  • No Obligation: Doctors aren’t required to follow suggestions from nurse case managers. Your health should come first.
  • Your Advocacy: If you feel a nurse case manager is compromising your care, it’s time to seek legal help. A lawyer can advocate for your rights, protecting your treatment and benefits.

Understanding how nurse case managers influence your treatment helps you to be proactive about your rights and preferences.

Can a Nurse Case Manager Make Decisions About My Medical Care?

No, they cannot make decisions about your care. Their role is advisory only. You and your healthcare provider have the final say on your treatment.

However nurse case managers often tell claims managers what to do and this can seriously affect your claim. 

What if My Treating Physician Agrees with the Nurse Case Manager?

If you’re concerned about your doctor’s decisions, discussing that directly with your doctor is important. If you still feel your care is being compromised, seek legal advice to protect your interests.

Can Refusing a Nurse Case Manager Hurt My Claim?

Refusing a nurse case manager’s involvement in your appointments should not negatively impact your claim. It’s your right to privacy and control over your medical care. 

How an L&I Attorney Can Help With Workers’ Compensation Claims Involving a Nurse Case Manager

A good workers’ comp and L&I attorney understands the challenges you face with nurse case managers. They will help you navigate these waters and ensure your rights are protected with your recovery as the top priority. Here’s an attorney can assist:

  • Advocacy: They stand up for you, making sure nurse case managers do not overstep their boundaries. Their goal is to keep the focus on your health and recovery.
  • Communication: They can communicate with your healthcare providers on your behalf, clarifying your wishes about nurse case manager involvement.
  • Guidance: They provides expert advice on dealing with nurse case managers, helping you to make informed decisions about your care and claim.

Workers compensation lawyers are committed to advocating for injured employees. If you’re feeling pressured by a nurse case manager or worried about your treatment and benefits, we are here to support you.

Don’t Let Nurse Care Managers Poison Your Workers’ Comp Case

Nurse case managers play a nasty role in the workers’ comp process. While they may present themselves as helpful intermediaries, their primary goal aligns with the insurance company, not your recovery. Remember, you have the right to refuse their presence at medical appointments and request your doctor limit their involvement in your case.

If you’re facing challenges with nurse case managers, Sharpe Law Firm is ready to help. Our priority is protecting the rights of injured workers and ensuring you receive the care and benefits you deserve. Contact us today for a consultation.

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Chris Sharpe

Meet Chris Sharpe

Christopher Sharpe is the go to attorney for injured persons. His law firm is helpful, honest, and knowledgeable about workers' compensation and personal injury law in the State of Washington. Chris has been helping injured Washington State workers for over 40 years. He has built a successful law practice by thoroughly educating, honestly helping, and successfully representing workers throughout Washington State.

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