(1) A petition to reopen medical benefits that terminate under 39-71-704(1)(f) must be reviewed as provided in this section.
(2) Medical benefits may be reopened only if the worker's medical condition is a direct result of the compensable injury or occupational disease and requires medical treatment in order to allow the worker to continue to work or return to work. Medical benefits closed by settlement or court order are not subject to reopening.
(3) A review of a petition to reopen medical benefits must be conducted by a medical review panel as provided in subsection (4) or, if stipulated by the worker and the insurer, solely by the department's medical director.
(4) The medical review panel must be composed of the department's medical director and two additional physicians who are licensed to practice medicine in Montana and who have expertise and experience in the area of medicine that is relevant to the worker's condition. The department's medical director shall serve as the presiding officer of the medical review panel. Participants on the medical review panel must be reimbursed as provided in 2-18-501 through 2-18-503 if travel is required for a review and must be paid a reasonable fee for services.
(5) A petition for reopening of medical benefits must be filed with the department within 5 years of the termination of medical benefits pursuant to 39-71-704(1)(f) . A petition may not be filed more than 90 days before benefits are to terminate.
(6) Upon receipt of a petition to reopen medical benefits, the department shall request from the insurer a copy of the worker's medical records contained in the insurer's claim file. The worker or the insurer may submit additional information that is relevant to the petition to reopen medical benefits.
(7) The proof necessary to support reopening of medical benefits must be a preponderance of the evidence.
(8) Within 60 days of the submission of a petition to reopen medical benefits, the medical review panel or the department's medical director shall issue a report. The report must provide the rationale for the decision reached. A report issued by the medical review panel must be supported by a majority of the panel members. If the report concludes that medical benefits must be reopened, the report must state the extent to which the benefits must be reopened consistent with the utilization and treatment guidelines. Benefits reopened pursuant to this section remain open for 2 years or until maximum medical improvement is achieved following surgery or the recommended medical treatment, whichever occurs first. If the medical panel specifically approves treatment beyond 2 years, medical benefits remain open for as long as recommended by the medical panel. The petitioner and the insurer shall submit updated information to the medical panel every 2 years, and every subsequent 2 years the medical panel shall review the claims that were reopened for longer than 2 years to determine whether to change the previous recommendation.
(9) A party aggrieved by a decision of the department's medical director or medical review panel may, after satisfying the dispute resolution requirements provided in this chapter, file a petition with the workers' compensation court. The report of the department's medical director or the medical review panel is presumed to be correct and may be overcome only by clear and convincing evidence.
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