LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Neil Eckelberger and his wife Robin want to know why Travelers Indemnity Company would schedule a doctor appointment for Neil 60 miles away, when there are several physicians he could see nearby.
“Going to New Port Richey is over 123 miles for us round trip,” Robin said.
But Neil has no choice. He suffered severe injuries in a workplace explosion in Sept. 2017.
According to state law, Travelers, his employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, calls the shots.
“This is one of the very many ways that workers’ comp carriers, in a very nefarious way, can set up barriers to medical care,” Neil’s attorney Michael Winer explained.
Neil suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns in the explosion. He also suffered significant hearing loss and an injury to his back.
Once released from the hospital’s burn unit, Travelers sent Neil to a walk-in clinic for follow up care.
One workers’ comp doctor suggested he be evaluated for Traumatic Brain Injury and treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Travelers rejected the recommendation.
“Getting subpar care would be the understatement of the century,” Neil added.
Neil is also suffering severe stomach pain, possible from the explosion or medications he is now taking.
Travelers agreed to send him to a gastroenterologist 60 miles away in New Port Richey.
“That’s ridiculous,” Robin stated.
Especially, Robin says when she’s searched Travelers’ workers’ comp network of doctors on the insurance company’s webpage.
“I’ve done a search for their providers and there are over 14 providers right here where we live within 20 miles,” Robin explained.
“This seems to be their method of operation,” Neil said.
The Eckelbergers are having the same issue with pain management.
“They are attempting to send us to a doctor who is between 35 and 40 miles away, and he’s not even a pain management doctor,” Robin exclaimed.
“They know that there are qualified physicians that could have treated him and we even requested those physicians by way of specific identity in the Lakeland area and they were all denied to us,” Winer stated.
According to Travelers, it contacted GI specialists near Mr. Eckelberger’s residence, 21 in all, and the doctor in New Port Richey is the only GI specialist who would take a workers’ comp case.
But Travelers’ list of physicians belonging to its network, located on its webpage, show dozens of GI specialists closer than 60 miles away.
“I think it’s part of their head games, I mean, why not send me to a doctor right here?” asked Neil.
In Florida, workers’ comp carriers decide who will treat injured workers and where.
“It’s not just that we’re going so far for doctors’ appointments, we know we’re going so far and we’re wasting our time because every doctor is saying, ‘I don’t see anything wrong with you,'” Robin said.