Alabama Department of Labor Regulation Related to Erectile Dysfunction Does Not Override Statute Regarding Reasonable Necessity
Ex parte Ward International Released September 4, 2015 The Employer, Ward International, filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus after the Circuit Court of Mobile County entered and ordered, upon motion by the Employee, Wesley Shows, requiring the Employer to pay for erectile dysfunction (ED) medication order by the authorized treating physician. The Employee and Employer had entered into a settlement related to a compensable lower back injury. The settlement left the issue of future medical benefits open. In March of 2015 the authorized treating physician, Dr. Wayne Cockrell, prescribed time release medication to be ingested every day to treat the Employee's ED. The Employer deny the request and the Employee filed a motion with the trial court requesting that they enter an order requiring the Employer to pay for the ED medication. The motion included an opinion from Dr. Cockrell that the Employee suffered from chronic pain that required narcotic analgesics, and that ED can certainly be associate with chronic pain and the use of narcotic analgescis. In its petition the Employer did not argue that it was entitled to an evidentiary hearing pursuant to Ex parte Publix Supermarkets, Inc, 963 So. 2d 654 (Ala. Civ. App. 2007), nor did the Employer argue that the medication was reasonable necessary to treat the ED which resulted from the compensable accident/injury. The Employer relied solely on Rule 480-5-5-.15(15) of the Alabama Administrative Code, which is a regulation put into effect by the Alabama Department of Labor. According to Rule 480-5-5-.15(15), which states it was promulgated pursuant to Ala. Code �_25-5-293, the employer is responsible for ED medication when the employee suffers from organic ED that resulted from a compensable on the job injury. The rule further states that psychological or psychiatric ED are not organic ED. The Department of Labor included 6 conditions that may cause organic ED: 1) Spinal cord injuries; 2) Injuries to genital and lower Urinary Tract; 3) Severe fracture fo the pelvis resulting in injury to the bladder or urethral pelvic nerve; 4) surgery of the genital or lower urinary tract; 5) removal of rectum causing injury to the nerves or vessels; or 6) any surgery that might interfere with the pelvic nerves or circulations. The Regulation goes on to state that the Employer is only responsible for 5 tablets per 30 days if treatment is for an accepted claim, one of the 6 conditions above are met, a urologist has evaluated the employee and determined he suffers from organic ED and a letter is received stating the medication for the ED is medically necessary. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals noted that, in this case, it was undisputed that the Employee did not suffer from one of the 6 conditions and a urologist had not evaluated him and determined he had organic ED. It was also undisputed that more than 5 tablets per 30 days was prescribed by Dr. Cockrell. The Court of Civil Appeals first pointed out that while not clear, Rule 480-5-5-.15(15) appears to be a policy determination issued by the Department of Labor as to when ED will be compensable. The Court further noted that Rule 480-5-5-.15(15) was promulgated pursuant to �_25-5-293, Ala. Code 1975, which states that insurance carriers and self-insured employers can adopt utilization review and engage in medical necessity determination, if conducted pursuant to policies, guidelines and regulations approved by the Department of Labor and Workers' Compensation Medical Services Board.. In Overnite Transp. Co. v. McDuffie, 933 So. 2d 1092, 1098 (Ala. Civ. App. 2005), the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ruled that a regulation promulgated pursuant to �_25-5-293 which required an employer's approval of all proposed referrals by the authorized treating physician did not override �_25-5-77(a), which states employer's are responsible for reasonably necessary medical treatment for injuries resulting from an accident that arose out of and occurred in the course of the employment. Based on the holding in Overnite Transport, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ruled that Rule 480-5-5-.15(15) related to ED did not override �_25-5-77(a). Therefore, since the evidence showed, and the Employer did not argue otherwise, that the ED was related to the work injury and the medication was reasonably necessary, the Court held that the Employer's Petition was due to be denied. Of note, The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals stated in a footnote to this opinion that the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act provides for coverage of psychological or psychiatric conditions related to a physical injury. Therefore, it seems that the Court would find, if the issued presented itself, that �_25-5-1(9) would provide coverage for psychological or psychiatric ED despite Rule 480-5-5-.15(15) stating otherwise. My Two Cents: Whenever there is a prescription for ED medication, it is advisable to focus on whether it is related and if the medication is reasonably necessary. You might consider having a urologist determine if the employee actually suffers from ED and provide an opinion as to the cause. You can also have the doctor weigh in on the reason for time release medication versus a tablet that could be taken as need with it being limited to 5 per 30 days. If the doctor opines that there is no medical reason for the time release medication, then it may be possible to argue that it is not medically necessary. Once you take �_25-5-77(a) out of the equation, the Rule 480-5-5-.15(15) would apply which limits the employee to 5 tablets per 30 days for ED. ----------------------------------------- ABOUT THE AUTHOR The article was written by Joshua G. Holden, Esq. a Member of Fish, Nelson & Holden, LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing employers, self-insured employers and insurance carriers in workers' compensation and related liability matters. Mr. Holden is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating an attorney can receive. Holden and his firm are members of The National Workers' Compensation Defense Network (NWCDN). The NWCDN is a national and Canadian network of reputable law firms organized to provide employers and insurers access to the highest quality representation in workers' compensation and related employer liability fields.