The California WCAB Considers the Administration of a WCMSA in Muniz Villalpando Case

The administration of a Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set Aside (WCMSA) was considered in a recent California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) decision.  In the Muniz Villalpando v Doherty Brothers; Martin Dusters; State Compensation Fund  case,  ( 2017 Cal. Wrk. Comp.P.D.Lexis ADJ599176, 2396484, 795039),  the applicant sought reconsideration of the workers’ compensation law judge’s (WCJ) denial of his request to change the administration of his WCMSA funds from a professionally administered account to one that was self-administered . The WCAB returned the matter to the trial level so that the WCJ may review the terms of the professional administration contract that address a change in administration.

By way of background, applicant Muniz Villalpando settled his claims in August of 2011. The settlement terms included the funding of the CMS determined WCMSA and the parties’ agreement that the WCMSA be professionally administered through Bridge Pointe. In December of 2016, Muniz Villalpando filed a pro se Petition for Reconsideration before WCJ Ortega. The issues addressed in the hearing involved the appropriateness of the administration, the WCAB’s jurisdiction to set aside the MSA and the appropriateness of self-administration of the WCMSA.

During the hearing, the defense presented testimony from a Bridgepointe /NuQuest witness regarding the types of payments that may be properly made from a WCMSA fund. Since the payments may only be for injury related and Medicare covered services and drugs, services that did not meet this two prong test may not be paid from the WCMSA account.  In denying Muniz Villalpando’s Petition for Reconsideration, WCJ Ortega noted that Bridge Pointe/NuQuest did not inappropriately manage their custodial obligations within the Compromise and Release settlement agreement.  In light of this, no further issues were addressed by WCJ Ortega.

The WCJ Ortega recommendation highlights the challenges that some claimants may face when attempting to administer their own WCMSA accounts. Not every treatment is Medicare covered or related to the workers’ compensation claim. CMS’ specific guidelines that address the proper administration of a Medicare Set Aside (MSA) account must also be followed. We will keep you advised of further developments in this case.

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