There was minimal legislation during the 2006 term of the Georgia General Assembly that impacted workers' compensation. In fact, most of the legislative changes could be characterized as general housekeeping measures. For example, Official Code of Georgia Annotated ("O.C.G.A.") section 34-9-104 was changed to make its wording consistent with that found in other sections of the Workers' Compensation Act. The mandate that the employee shall receive notice from the employer was changed to provide that the employer shall send notice to the employee. The time limit for submitting mileage expenses was clarified as running one year from the date that the mileage was incurred. Also, the total compensation payable to a surviving spouse as a sole dependent at the time of death was increased from $125,000 to $150,000.
Probably the most significant amendment impacting workers' compensation was actually not an amendment to the Workers' Compensation Act. Instead, the amendment was to the Patient Self-Referral Act. The legislature enacted the Patient Self-Referral Act in 1993 based upon the premise that the "referral of a patient by a health care provider to a provider of designated health care services in which the health care provider has an investment interest represents a potential conflict of interest." Georgia's Patient Self-Referral Act was generally modeled after the federal law commonly referred to as the Stark Act.
The Patient Self-Referral Act prohibits referral arrangements, including the obvious ownership interest and even profit-sharing arrangements where any consideration is paid for the referral. There also are a number of specific exceptions to the patient referral prohibition. Until this year, one of those exceptions was for physicians treating workers' compensation patients. That exception was deleted in its entirety by the 2006 General Assembly, thereby making the Patient Self-Referral Act applicable even in the context of workers' compensation.
Bagley, H. Michael; Kniffen, Daniel C.; and Dixon, Katherine D.
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 58:
1, Article 19.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol58/iss1/19