Our friends at the Alabama Workers Comp Blawg have reported on a case that will certainly raise your attention, if nothing else. An employer in the Yellowhammer State recently filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus asking that a decision by the Circuit Court of Mobile County be overturned. That court had granted a request by their injured employee asking that they provide for his erectile dysfunction (ED) medication.
I'm no lawyer, but shouldn't that have been a Writ of Minimus, given the topic du jour?
Erectile Dysfunction is not an easy subject. In fact, it is the one topic that is just hard because, well, it isn't. Combine it with the legalese and highfalutin words of workers' compensation, and you really have yourself one messy conundrum. There is no getting around it, for men who suffer ED, it is one sensitive soft spot.
The case itself centered on the employer's interpretation of state Rule 480-5-5-.15(15) of the Alabama Administrative Code. Blawg author Joshua Holden skillfully leads the reader on a painfully detailed discussion of that rule, covering physcological and psychiatric Erectile Dysfunction as well as organic Erectile Dysfunction. It is almost Disneyesque in its effect; like you are on a slow meandering boat ride, with “It's a Small World” blaring in the background. Spoiler alert; according to the rule, “psychological or psychiatric ED are not organic ED”. All I know is, by the time you wend your way through the machinations of this case you will probably require a good dose of ED meds yourself.
Anyhoo, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals noted that, in the case at hand, it was “undisputed that the Employee did not suffer from one of the 6 conditions [outlined by Rule 480-5-5-.15(15)] and a urologist had not evaluated him and determined he had organic ED”, as the rule stipulates. The court also found that more than the “5 tablets per 30 days” defined by the rule had been prescribed by the man's physician, Dr. Cockrell.
Ultimately the court found that Rule 480-5-5-.15(15) did not override §25-5-77(a), “which states employers are responsible for reasonably necessary medical treatment for injuries resulting from an accident that arose out of and occurred in the course of the employment.” The employee in question had suffered a lower back injury, and the pain medications involved had led to the secondary condition of Erectile Dysfunction.
The court upheld the lower court decision, issued by Justice Rod Stout, instructing that Dr. Cockrell's Erectile Dysfunction medication orders be provided.
I swear, sometimes these articles just write themselves.
This was a proper decision, and is good news for Alabama workers. They really need it. The state took a drubbing recently in the much publicized Propublica series on Workers' Compensation, where the authors compared benefits available there to those of other states. One comparison was particularly stark, showing that an arm worth a bazillion dollars in Pennsylvania is only worth two cereal box tops and a Moon Pie in Alabama. I have no idea what the valuation of an erection would be, or if those in Pennsylvania are provided more “substantial” and longer lasting ones than their unfortunate neighbors to the south. I suspect that if this were the case, things would quickly equalize – since most Alabama men would've already moved to Pennsylvania.
So on this one the court stood tall; a proudly erect decision on Erectile Dysfunction. While the condition in this case was not the direct result of a work related injury, it certainly was directly tied to the outcome of the accident. Workers' comp should be concerned with quality of life as well as timeliness of care, so to deny this medicine would have been a mistake, the system would be going soft on the issue.
And when it comes to workers' comp and Erectile Dysfunction, no one wants to pull a boner like that.