How to respond to an employer's request for medical information.

Sooner or later every injured worker may be asked to sign an Authorization to Disclose Health and/or Personal Information.  These forms typically purport to allow the employer access to medical, psychological, psychiatric, pharmaceutical, vocational and social information.

Should you sign it?  What will happen if you refuse?

Ohio law provides that the BWC can suspend a claim if an injured worker does not sign a pre-approved BWC Authorization to Release Medical Information. A suspension means that BWC will not process any requests for compensation or medical treatment. Therefore, you may as well not have a claim at all.

The standard BWC release limits the employer's access to information that is "related causally or historically to physical or mental injuries relevant to [your] workers' compensation claim."  Be advised that this is rather expansive.  For instance, if you make a claim for a back injury then you are opening your medical history for scrutiny of any condition that could lead to complaints of back pain (and many do).

It is important that injured workers realize that, by filing a workers comp claim, they are opening their medical history to scrutiny.  The State of Ohio has determined that -- as a matter of law -- employers have the right to determine whether an injured worker has any pre-existing conditions prior to filing for workers comp.

In fact, many injured workers are unaware that the BWC claim application provides for the release of their confidential information in fine print.

Opening up your medical history is an unfortunate part of the process.  The best rule is, if you do not have anything to hide, then go ahead and sign the application.  If, on the other hand, you wish to keep something private, you may opt not to pursue BWC benefits.