Do we need to pay for employee medical exams?
Q: We asked an employee to get a medical certification for her leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but the doctor is charging $200 just to complete the paperwork. The employee can’t afford it and has asked our company to pay the bill; are we required to do so?
A: If your employee works in Oregon, yes. In Montana, maybe. In California, Idaho or Washington, no. In general, employers have no obligation to pay for medical costs associated with obtaining an FMLA certification, unless the employer has requested a second or third opinion. In Oregon, employers must pay for all out-of-pocket expenses for employer-required medical exams. Montana requires employers to pay for exams that are a condition of employment; it is unclear whether this extends to FMLA medical certifications. For more information, see our Legal Guide, “Employer’s Duty to Pay for Medical Exams” (3990).
Charging large fees for a doctor’s time to fill out paperwork is an emerging trend in health care. Even if the law doesn’t require you to pay the cost, you may want to evaluate whether your policy is working for you. Contact your Vigilant staff representative to discuss options. On a practical level, ask yourself if it’s fair for the employee to bear the burden of the expense, whether you truly need a medical certification in order to designate the leave as FMLA, and whether there are any other options available. For example, maybe you can contact the doctor to negotiate a reduced fee. Since medical costs aren’t likely to go down any time soon, you should develop your policy with the expectation that doctors will be charging large fees for the paperwork.