Montana Code Annotated 2021



Part 1. General Provisions

Insurers To Act Promptly On Claims -- In-State Claims Examiners -- Third-Party Agents -- Penalties

39-71-107. Insurers to act promptly on claims -- in-state claims examiners -- third-party agents -- penalties. (1) Pursuant to the public policy stated in 39-71-105, prompt claims handling practices are necessary to provide appropriate service to injured workers, to employers, and to providers who are the customers of the workers' compensation system.

(2) All workers' compensation and occupational disease claims filed pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act must be examined by a claims examiner in Montana. For a claim to be considered as examined by a claims examiner in Montana, the claims examiner examining the claim is required to determine the entitlement to benefits, authorize payment of all benefits due, manage the claim, have authority to settle the claim, maintain an office located in Montana, and examine Montana claims from that office. Use of a mailbox or maildrop in Montana does not constitute maintaining an office in Montana.

(3) An insurer shall maintain the documents related to each claim filed with the insurer under the Workers' Compensation Act at the Montana office of the claims examiner examining the claim in Montana until the claim is settled. The documents may be either original documents or duplicates of the original documents and must be maintained in a manner that allows the documents to be retrieved from that office and copied at the request of the claimant or the department. Settled claim files stored outside of the claims examiner's office must be made available within 48 hours of a request for the file. Electronic or optically imaged documents are permitted.

(4) (a) An insurer that uses a third-party agent to provide the insurer with claim examination services shall notify the department in writing of a change of a third-party agent at least 14 days in advance of the change.

(b) The department may assess a penalty not to exceed $200 against an insurer that does not comply with the advance notice provision in subsection (4)(a). The penalty may be assessed for each failure by an insurer to give the required advance notice.

(5) (a) Except for those medical benefits provided by a managed care organization or a preferred provider organization in Title 39, chapter 71, part 11, or paid pursuant to 39-71-704(5), an insurer that uses a third-party agent to review medical bills shall, when first using the agent's services and annually in subsequent years, obtain written certification from the agent that, for each bill the agent reviews, the agent agrees to calculate the payment due based on the Montana workers' compensation medical fee schedules, provided for under 39-71-704, that were in effect on the date the service was provided.

(b) Except for those medical benefits provided by a managed care organization or a preferred provider organization in Title 39, chapter 71, part 11, or paid pursuant to 39-71-704(5), an insurer whose agent neglects or fails to use the proper fee schedule may be assessed a penalty of not less than $200 or more than $1,000 for each bill that its agent reviews under a fee schedule other than the proper Montana fee schedule.

(c) An insurer that without good cause neglects or fails to pay undisputed medical bills on an accepted liability claim within 60 days of receipt of the bill may be assessed a penalty of not less than $200 or more than $1,000 for each bill that is the subject of a delay as provided in this subsection (5)(c).

(6) An insurer shall provide to the claimant:

(a) a written statement of the reasons that a claim is being denied at the time of denial;

(b) whenever benefits are denied to a claimant, a written explanation of how the claimant may appeal an insurer's decision;

(c) a written explanation of the amount of wage-loss benefits being paid to the claimant, along with an explanation of the calculation used to compute those benefits. The explanation must be sent within 7 days of the initial payment of the benefit.

(d) a written notice advising the claimant when a change is made to the claims examiner handling the claim, including the name and contact information of the new claims examiner. The notice must be sent within 14 days of the change in claims examiner.

(7) An insurer shall:

(a) begin making payments that are due on a claim within 14 days of acceptance of the claim, unless the insurer promptly notifies the claimant that the insurer needs additional information in order to begin paying benefits and specifies the information needed; and

(b) pay settlements within 30 days of the date the department issues an order approving the settlement.

(8) An insurer may contest a penalty assessed pursuant to subsection (4) or (5) in a hearing conducted according to department rules. A party may appeal the final agency order to the workers' compensation court. The court shall review the order pursuant to the requirements of 2-4-704.

(9) The department may adopt rules to implement this section.

(10) (a) For the purposes of this section, "settled claim" means a department-approved or court-ordered compromise of benefits between a claimant and an insurer or a claim that was paid in full.

(b) The term does not include a claim in which there has been only a lump-sum advance of benefits.

History: En. Sec. 4, Ch. 243, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 214, L. 2001; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 103, L. 2005; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 140, L. 2005; amd. Sec. 11, Ch. 416, L. 2005; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 117, L. 2007; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 112, L. 2009; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 150, L. 2011; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 123, L. 2015; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 433, L. 2017.