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Complete guide to medical expenses under the workers comp system

Updated on February 14, 2022 | Published on August 26, 2016

By Matthew Garling

If you have sustained an injury in the course of your employment, the insurer is required to pay medical expenses in accordance with Section 60 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987.

The term has also been defined to mean “any necessity for relevant treatment which results from the injury where its purpose and potential effect is to alleviate the consequence of injury”. Another way of defining “reasonably necessary” is to ask if the injured worker cannot do without such treatment. If this test is then satisfied, the treatment would be “reasonably necessary”.

Often this test is confused to mean that the treatment must be reasonable and necessary. This is incorrect. That is a much more demanding test. If the treatment is such that its potential effect is to alleviate the consequence of injury, then it will be “reasonably necessary”.

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The insurer is not required to pay for medical expenses if prior approval from the insurer has not been obtained (many exemptions to this rule are outlined below).

Section 60 states that the insurer is required to pay “reasonably necessary” medical treatment which includes:

  • Medical or related treatment.
  • Hospital treatment.
  • Ambulance service.
  • Work place rehabilitation services.

The insurer is also required to pay for the workers travel to and from such treatment.

What is "Reasonably Necessary"

The insurer is required to pay “reasonably necessary” medical expenses. In determining whether particular treatment is reasonably necessary, the insurer should have regard to:

  • The appropriateness of the particular treatment.
  • The availability of alternative treatment.
  • The cost of the treatment.
  • The actual potential effectiveness of the treatment.
  • The acceptance by medical experts of the treatment as being appropriate and likely to be effect.

What type of medical and related expenses does the Insurer pay?

The insurer will pay reasonably necessary medical and related expenses as follows:

Medical and related treatment

Medical and related treatment includes:

  • Treatment by medical practitioners, physiotherapist, chiropractors, osteopaths, psychologists, counsellors, exercise psychologists, remedial massage therapists and other allied health practitioners.
  • Provision of artificial aids.
  • Domestic assistance services.
  • Nursing, medical and medicine supplies (provided outside of hospital treatment).

Hospital treatment

Hospital treatment includes treatment at public and private hospitals and/or rehabilitation centres.

Ambulance service

Ambulance service includes emergency, non-emergency and inter hospital transfers provided by the Ambulance Service of NSW.

Work place rehabilitation services

Work place rehabilitation services include:

  • Return to work in case management.
  • Vocational, functional and work place assessments.
  • Job analysis and modification.
  • Identification of suitable employment.
  • Worker retraining and placement in suitable employment.

Travel expenses

To claim for payment for travel to attend medical, hospital and rehabilitation appointments, the worker will need to keep:

  • A record of the mileage if the worker used his or her car; and/or
  • Receipts for public transport.

The maximum amount payable for private car travel associated with attending medical expenses is currently $0.55 per kilometre.

Do medical expenses require prior approval?

Section 60 (2A) of the Workers Compensation Act states that the insurer is not liable to pay for the cost of medical treatment without prior approval of the insurer. However, there are a number of exceptions for a lack of prior approval and they include the following:

  • Any treatment provided within 48 hours of the injury.
  • Attending a nominating treating doctor for a consultation or to obtain a medical certificate.
  • The first consultation with a specialist medical practitioner on referral by the nominated treating doctor.
  • All plain x-rays performed on referral from a nominated treating doctor or specialist medical practitioner.
  • Any service provided in a public hospital on presentation to an emergency department.
  • In relation to physiotherapy, osteopathic or chiropractic treatment, the initial consultation and up to a further 7 treatment sessions provided the practitioner is registered and the injured worker has not previously received such treatment for the injury claimed.
  • Pharmacy items prescribed by the nominating treating doctor within the first 3 weeks post injury up to a maximum of $500.00.
  • For any psychological treatment or counselling, the initial consultation and up to a further 5 treatment or counselling sessions where the counsellor is WorkCover approved and the worker has not previously received such counselling.
  • Payment of up to 5 sessions of remedial massage however the remedial massage therapist must be WorkCover approved.
  • In relation to a hearing needs assessment, the initial hearing needs assessment as long as such assessment was referred by the nominated treating doctor or treating specialist.
  • The Workers Compensation Commission or a registrar orders the insurer to pay for treatment expenses.

How do I claim the medical expenses?

When you initially make a claim for workers’ compensation you will receive a claim number from the nominated insurer. You should provide that claim number directly to your treating doctors and medical providers.

The medical provider should send their accounts direct to the insurer for payment.

If you have paid for medical treatment yourself and are requesting reimbursement, then you should collate all accounts/receipts that you have in relation to such treatment and forward it to the insurer and request reimbursement, including the costs of travel expenses incurred.

The easiest way to do so is to provide an excel spreadsheet setting out the claim and attaching the receipts/accounts.

Once I request prior approval for payment of treatment expensed, how long does the insurer have to reply?

If you require the prior approval for payment of treatment from an insurer, for example, such as the cost of surgery, you need to provide to the insurer a report or treatment plan from the treating doctor or specialist which specifies:

  • The services proposed.
  • The anticipated outcome.
  • The duration.
  • The frequency.
  • The cost of the service.

This report is usually completed by the Doctor on your behalf.

Once such a report or treatment plan is received, the insurer is required to then approve payment of reasonably necessary medical treatment within 21 days.

If there is insufficient or inadequate information to make a decision the insurer is to request further information from the treatment provider. Failing this, the insurer may then obtain an independent medical opinion.

If the insurer fails to respond to a request for a specific treatment after the provision of a report or a treatment plan within 21 days, the worker may refer the matter to the WorkCover Customer Service Centre on 13 10 50 for assistance. The Centre will contact the insurer and request a response.

If the insurer does not respond or the reply is inadequate, the worker may take the matter to the WorkCover Independent Review Office (WIRO) who can investigate the complaint. WIRO can be contacted on 13 9476 or a complaint can be lodged at www.wiro.nsw.gov.au

If the insurer continues to fail to respond to the request, then you need to consult an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law who can commence proceedings in the Workers Compensation Commission seeking an order that the insurer pay for the cost of the reasonably necessary treatment.

If a worker has paid for reasonably necessary medical treatment and has requested reimbursement from the insurer, the insurer is required to make such reimbursement within 7 days after the workers’ request.

If the worker has paid for travelling expenses to receive medical treatment or attend a medical appointment, the insurer is to reimburse the worker within 7 days after the workers’ request for payment.

Can the Insurer decline payment for medical expenses?

Yes. The insurer can decline payment of any medical treatment on the basis that it does not accept that it is “reasonably necessary” (see definition previously).

If the insurer declines to pay for any medical treatment, they are required pursuant to Section 74 of the Workplace Injury Management Act to provide a notice in writing of the reasons and evidence upon which the insurance company relies to decline payment of the treatment. The insurer must include a copy of all relevant information including any medical reports they relied upon in making their decision.

An injured worker is entitled to request a review of any such decision. However, in our experience reviews are almost always unsuccessful and are usually a waste of time.

If you receive a Section 74 Notice declining liability for payment of treatment expenses, you need to consult an experienced Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law immediately.

How long will the Insurer pay for my medical treatment?

The insurer is required to pay for all reasonably necessary medical treatment as follows:

  1. If the injury has resulted in a degree of permanent impairment of 10% or less, the insurer is required to pay medical expenses for a maximum period of 2 years from the date of the claim or from the date on which weekly payments of compensation ceased to be payable to the worker, whichever occurs later.
  2. If the injury has resulted in a degree of permanent impairment of more than 10% but not more than 20%, the insurer is required to pay medical expenses for a period of 5 years from the day on which the claim was made or from the date on which weekly payments of compensation cease to be payable to the worker, whichever occurs later.
  3. If the injury has resulted in a degree of permanent impairment of 21% or more, then medical expenses are payable for the remainder of the workers’ life.

There are some exceptions to the above. The worker may obtain payment for the following medical related treatment at any time regardless of the assessment of whole person impairment:

  • Crutches, artificial members, eyes or teeth, other artificial aids or spectacles, including hearing aids.
  • Any modifications of a workers home or vehicle.
  • Secondary surgery.

Secondary surgery, is surgery which is directly consequential on earlier surgery and effects the same part of the body as the earlier surgery. The secondary surgery must be approved within two years of the earlier surgery.

If you have any question at all, no matter how silly you think it is, please contact me on mgarling@garlingandco.com.au and outline your circumstances and I will personally respond. I receive many emails for help each day and personally respond to all.

Matthew Garling

Matthew Garling is an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law approved by New South Wales Law Society. He is admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of NSW and the High Court of Australia. Matthew is also a member of...
Yanthi S.
01:51 18 May 22
I engaged with Garling and Co to assist me for my weekly payment dispute with the insurance. I was upset with Natasha, as she didn't prepare me to the worse outcome or kind of negotiation in the... hearing. I assumed that as a Lawyer she should experience with the process or the way to solve the case. Even though I asked her what should I do or what would be happened in the hearing a week before but she didn't mentioned anything, and told me not do anything. But in the hearing she and the Arbitrator only gave me less than 5 minute to make decision and pushed me to accept the disappointed outcome and what she said totally different with what she said earlier. I don't trust her at all, her words is not consistent.I would like to express my appreciation to Matthew Garling who had stepped in to handle my weekly payment issue with the insurance. He is very professional, knowledgeable, easy to talk to and very humble. My disappointment earlier has melted away by his kindness and caring to resolve my issue which has came out the great outcome. Now I am satisfied with his expertise therefore I would not hesitate to let him to handle the case I might have in the future.read more
Lynda S
00:34 04 May 22
For such complicated matters, it is extremely important to have a good team in your corner. The right team.Garling and co is just that and much more.They listen to you and care. They support you... during the entire process. You will have so many questions and they always return your calls and reply to your emails.Thank you so much to Renee, who explained everything to me and what to expect in details and really reassured me. The process felt less heavy and stressful because she was there. She was professional and so efficient. She took over my case from previous lawyer and I wish I could have met her first. She was available to answer the many questions I had along the way. There is also Kelli, she was the first person I got on the phone most of the time when I called and she is nice and very helpful, I had so many questions and doubts, I was stressed yet she had the patience to explain and seek answers to my questions.Natasha took over my case towards the end and she also was great in listening and supporting me and made sure to defend my best interests against the other side at all time.The Worker’s compensation process is very stressful, it can last for a long period. In my case it was three years and it is to the upmost importance to have people who treats you well, are professional and efficient.I am very satisfied with the outcome and I hope that this reviews helps the next person.Your assistance made the difference and I would have not been able to do it without your precious help.read more
Melinda B.
23:57 04 Apr 22
Workers compensation and the medical-legal process is a complicated and a difficult process.If you are looking for a highly professional compensation/personal injury lawyer, I would without... hesitation definitely recommend Matthew Garling who is a genuine, caring & dedicated lawyer.Matthew, Allison Luck and co. are extremely professional, clear and concise with all communication and an exceptional support during the whole process of my claim, I felt confident and secure that I had made the right decision having Matthew represent me, they worked tirelessly and where 100% committed to getting me the best possible outcome.My case was complicated and Matthew never gave up fighting for me, he didn’t just take the first option for a quick and easy resolution.He and his team got me the best possible outcome for my WPI and I will be forever grateful for their hard work and diligence. I now have peace of mind knowing I have lifetime medical assistance and payment till retirement age.read more
Jim M.
12:25 27 Mar 22
Garling and Co lawyers you have done again with Success for my TPD claim! Ms. Emma Perkins and her team have assisted my TPD claim with great success after the hard work, She is a very down-to-earth... person, professional, and highly knowledgeable with insurance claim law. She is very approachable and always willing to help and often reply my question of email after business hours. I will most delighted to recommend Garling and Co Lawyers. Ms. Emma Perkins and her team to any person who needs insurance claim law service like me. by Julieread more
Anthony N
22:13 17 Mar 22
I had Garling & Co Lawyers handle my workplace dispute, I could not be happier with the outcome, handled in such a professional way with excellent communication throughout the entire process.Natasha... and Kelli were very understanding in every aspect, requesting information via phone or email was never an issue, fast response times and helpful in every way. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the team @ Garling & Co Lawyers. 👍read more
Yvonne M.
05:03 21 Jan 22
Zee
14:20 15 Jan 22
I would like to thank the entire team at Garling and Co for being in my corner throughout the worst years I've experienced in my life.I chose Garling and Co in the end after being seriously injured... at work and needing representation, something I should have done years prior.I met with over 12 other legal firms in Sydney. Large,medium, small and all in between. Some were friends, some family, some were sharks, many were pressuring, many promised the world, Matthew was not like that.Matthew was the benchmark as he was one of the first I spoke with and ultimately he stood out in the end as I felt he was the most genuine.From the outset to the conclusion, I found Matthew to be very polite, easy to communicate with and extremely down to earth.He explained everything simply, he had answers for any questions along the way. He told me it how it was, not just what I wanted to hear.Matthew is a genuine nice guy that runs a very efficient and professional law firm. I made the correct choice engaging him in my claims and would not hesitate in recommending him.Renee was also terrific in handling my TPD claim which was literally finalised faster then international postage.Allison, Rebecca and Kelli were all great, always.Thanks again Garling and Co.read more
mark S.
06:30 23 Dec 21
I found from my very first meeting With Matthew that he was upfront honest and to the point . He thoroughly investigated my claim and we agreed too proceed.The staff at Garling and Co are wonderful... and helpful and I was kept informed and upto date from day one till the end .They made me feel confident and secure and I know I had the best team possible for my best outcome .I can’t thank Matthew and the team for their wonderful serviceread more
Daniel F.
08:48 10 Nov 21
My wife suffered psychological injury.Never having similar experience she had to get legal advice.Workers compensation law is complex and she needed someone to help her navigate her way through.... There are many compensation lawyers but not all with enough experience and strong reputation . We have finally decided to go with Matthew and his team based on the independent website reviews .Looking back now we have made the right choice .There is lot of hurdles and having trustworthy lawyer with great communication skills on your side can make huge difference .My wife can now try to move on with the compensation she deserved.Thanks to Matthew ,Allison ,Emma,Rebecca and rest of the team. Thank you again.Daniel and Veerayaread more
K B.
07:35 28 Oct 21
When you work for an employer for a number of decades and suffer a debilitating injury, you expect compassion, support and belief that you are genuine. When you don’t get that and then also have to... deal with Workers Compensation Insurers it slowly breaks you.That's when you need amazing support like Matthew Garling and his team. From my first meeting with Matthew I was confident I was referred to the right guy. I couldn’t be more pleased with my outcome. Matthew is the Guru of workers compensation, he is professional, easy to work with, nothings a bother and most importantly he gets great results. Do not think twice about using Garling and Co Lawyers.Thank you Matthew, Renee, Allison and Kelli for your invaluable support.read more
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Yanthi S.
01:51 18 May 22
I engaged with Garling and Co to assist me for my weekly payment dispute with the insurance. I was upset with Natasha, as she didn't prepare me to the worse outcome or kind of negotiation in the... hearing. I assumed that as a Lawyer she should experience with the process or the way to solve the case. Even though I asked her what should I do or what would be happened in the hearing a week before but she didn't mentioned anything, and told me not do anything. But in the hearing she and the Arbitrator only gave me less than 5 minute to make decision and pushed me to accept the disappointed outcome and what she said totally different with what she said earlier. I don't trust her at all, her words is not consistent.I would like to express my appreciation to Matthew Garling who had stepped in to handle my weekly payment issue with the insurance. He is very professional, knowledgeable, easy to talk to and very humble. My disappointment earlier has melted away by his kindness and caring to resolve my issue which has came out the great outcome. Now I am satisfied with his expertise therefore I would not hesitate to let him to handle the case I might have in the future.read more
Lynda S
00:34 04 May 22
For such complicated matters, it is extremely important to have a good team in your corner. The right team.Garling and co is just that and much more.They listen to you and care. They support you... during the entire process. You will have so many questions and they always return your calls and reply to your emails.Thank you so much to Renee, who explained everything to me and what to expect in details and really reassured me. The process felt less heavy and stressful because she was there. She was professional and so efficient. She took over my case from previous lawyer and I wish I could have met her first. She was available to answer the many questions I had along the way. There is also Kelli, she was the first person I got on the phone most of the time when I called and she is nice and very helpful, I had so many questions and doubts, I was stressed yet she had the patience to explain and seek answers to my questions.Natasha took over my case towards the end and she also was great in listening and supporting me and made sure to defend my best interests against the other side at all time.The Worker’s compensation process is very stressful, it can last for a long period. In my case it was three years and it is to the upmost importance to have people who treats you well, are professional and efficient.I am very satisfied with the outcome and I hope that this reviews helps the next person.Your assistance made the difference and I would have not been able to do it without your precious help.read more
Melinda B.
23:57 04 Apr 22
Workers compensation and the medical-legal process is a complicated and a difficult process.If you are looking for a highly professional compensation/personal injury lawyer, I would without... hesitation definitely recommend Matthew Garling who is a genuine, caring & dedicated lawyer.Matthew, Allison Luck and co. are extremely professional, clear and concise with all communication and an exceptional support during the whole process of my claim, I felt confident and secure that I had made the right decision having Matthew represent me, they worked tirelessly and where 100% committed to getting me the best possible outcome.My case was complicated and Matthew never gave up fighting for me, he didn’t just take the first option for a quick and easy resolution.He and his team got me the best possible outcome for my WPI and I will be forever grateful for their hard work and diligence. I now have peace of mind knowing I have lifetime medical assistance and payment till retirement age.read more
Jim M.
12:25 27 Mar 22
Garling and Co lawyers you have done again with Success for my TPD claim! Ms. Emma Perkins and her team have assisted my TPD claim with great success after the hard work, She is a very down-to-earth... person, professional, and highly knowledgeable with insurance claim law. She is very approachable and always willing to help and often reply my question of email after business hours. I will most delighted to recommend Garling and Co Lawyers. Ms. Emma Perkins and her team to any person who needs insurance claim law service like me. by Julieread more
Anthony N
22:13 17 Mar 22
I had Garling & Co Lawyers handle my workplace dispute, I could not be happier with the outcome, handled in such a professional way with excellent communication throughout the entire process.Natasha... and Kelli were very understanding in every aspect, requesting information via phone or email was never an issue, fast response times and helpful in every way. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the team @ Garling & Co Lawyers. 👍read more
Yvonne M.
05:03 21 Jan 22
Zee
14:20 15 Jan 22
I would like to thank the entire team at Garling and Co for being in my corner throughout the worst years I've experienced in my life.I chose Garling and Co in the end after being seriously injured... at work and needing representation, something I should have done years prior.I met with over 12 other legal firms in Sydney. Large,medium, small and all in between. Some were friends, some family, some were sharks, many were pressuring, many promised the world, Matthew was not like that.Matthew was the benchmark as he was one of the first I spoke with and ultimately he stood out in the end as I felt he was the most genuine.From the outset to the conclusion, I found Matthew to be very polite, easy to communicate with and extremely down to earth.He explained everything simply, he had answers for any questions along the way. He told me it how it was, not just what I wanted to hear.Matthew is a genuine nice guy that runs a very efficient and professional law firm. I made the correct choice engaging him in my claims and would not hesitate in recommending him.Renee was also terrific in handling my TPD claim which was literally finalised faster then international postage.Allison, Rebecca and Kelli were all great, always.Thanks again Garling and Co.read more
mark S.
06:30 23 Dec 21
I found from my very first meeting With Matthew that he was upfront honest and to the point . He thoroughly investigated my claim and we agreed too proceed.The staff at Garling and Co are wonderful... and helpful and I was kept informed and upto date from day one till the end .They made me feel confident and secure and I know I had the best team possible for my best outcome .I can’t thank Matthew and the team for their wonderful serviceread more
Daniel F.
08:48 10 Nov 21
My wife suffered psychological injury.Never having similar experience she had to get legal advice.Workers compensation law is complex and she needed someone to help her navigate her way through.... There are many compensation lawyers but not all with enough experience and strong reputation . We have finally decided to go with Matthew and his team based on the independent website reviews .Looking back now we have made the right choice .There is lot of hurdles and having trustworthy lawyer with great communication skills on your side can make huge difference .My wife can now try to move on with the compensation she deserved.Thanks to Matthew ,Allison ,Emma,Rebecca and rest of the team. Thank you again.Daniel and Veerayaread more
K B.
07:35 28 Oct 21
When you work for an employer for a number of decades and suffer a debilitating injury, you expect compassion, support and belief that you are genuine. When you don’t get that and then also have to... deal with Workers Compensation Insurers it slowly breaks you.That's when you need amazing support like Matthew Garling and his team. From my first meeting with Matthew I was confident I was referred to the right guy. I couldn’t be more pleased with my outcome. Matthew is the Guru of workers compensation, he is professional, easy to work with, nothings a bother and most importantly he gets great results. Do not think twice about using Garling and Co Lawyers.Thank you Matthew, Renee, Allison and Kelli for your invaluable support.read more
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