THIRD QUARTER 2019

Iowa

By: Caitlin Kilburg

Questions:

In Iowa, is mileage compensable for travel to and from necessary medical care?

Short Answer:

Yes, all mileage, and other travel expenses, are compensable for travel to seek medical treatment.

Discussion:

Iowa Code Section 85.27(1) holds in pertinent part that the employer, for all compensable injuries, shall furnish reasonable medical services and shall allow reasonably and necessary transportation expenses incurred for such services.

Generally, the Agency has held that an employee should not be required to travel more than 50 miles to receive medical care. However, where closer medical care is not available, or a specialist is needed, then longer travel for the medical care is appropriate.  It is important to note that because the code allows for reasonable transportation expenses, this can include hotels, meals, and even the lost wages of a spouse or other individual if assistance is needed to travel when the length of travel increases.

Conversely, to the extent that an injured worker must miss work as a result of his medical care Iowa law provides that the employer should pay the injured worker at his regular rate of compensation, and the employer should be reimbursed by the workers’ compensation insurer.

The reimbursement rate for mileage incident to the use of a private auto is the per-mile rate allowed by the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for business standard mileage that is in effect on July 1 each year.  $0.58 (fifty-eight cents) is the per-mile rate for use of a private auto from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020.

Travel expenses are also allowed for independent medical examinations under Iowa Code Section 85.39.  This applies to examinations scheduled either by Claimant or Defendant.

Practice Tip

Although Iowa follows the federal mileage reimbursement rate that follows and changes via calendar year, Iowa changes its mileage reimbursement rate based on the State’s fiscal year or July 1 through June 30. This means that although the federal mileage reimbursement rate will update on January 1, 2020 you will continue to use the 2019 rate until July 1, 2020.