THIRD QUARTER 2019
By: Joshua Stegeman and Jade Koller
In Missouri, is mileage to and from necessary medical care compensable?
Yes, mileage can be reimbursable for necessary medical care in Missouri, but only if the distance travelled is beyond the local or metropolitan region of the employer’s location.
The applicable Missouri statute, MO. Rev. Stat §287.140.1 states “When an employee is required to submit to medical examinations or necessary medical treatment at a place outside of the local or metropolitan area from the employee’s principal place of employment, the employer or its insurer shall advance or reimburse the employee for all necessary and reasonable expenses.” According to the statute, the place of medical treatment is viewed in relation to how far it is from the place of employment, not the residence of the employee. Although mileage is not specifically stated in the statute, it can be inferred from the statute that mileage is a reasonable expense for an employee traveling outside of the local or metropolitan area. Additionally, courts have generally upheld that mileage is considered a necessary and reasonable expense included in the statute.
The statute provides that treatment may consist of “medical, surgical, chiropractic, and hospital treatment, including nursing, custodial, ambulance and medicines, as may reasonably be required after the injury or disability, to cure and relieve from the effects of the work injury.” Essentially, if the employee can show that treatment is reasonably necessary to cure or relieve a work injury, then it is most likely covered as necessary treatment under the statute.
Since the statute gives no guidance of what constitutes “local or metropolitan area,” it is usually determined on a case by case basis. In Green v. Platte County, No. 05-099387, 2009 WL 2844806 (Mo. Lab. Ind. Rel. Com. 2009), the Commission used Missouri’s Official Highway Map to provide an objective way to determine what areas are included in the Kansas City Metropolitan area. While this is only one way that can be used to determine the local or metropolitan area, other ALJ and Commission decisions have used their discretion on whether the place of treatment is within the local area of the place of employment. In short, what is considered local or metro area is determined on a case-by-case basis. There is no hard line definition. However, many ALJs will consider beyond 25 miles one-way outside the local or metro region depending on how large the local or metro region is.
As of July 1, 2019, the Missouri mileage rate has increased to $0.55 a mile. This rate will be in effect until June 30, 2020. In addition, section §287.140.1 prohibits the employer from being required to pay transportation costs for a greater distance than 250 miles each way from the place of treatment, even if that place of treatment is out of state.
Since the statute gives the right to the employer to assert control or direct care for the employee by choosing the medical provider, the employer can choose providers within the metro or local area of the place of employment. Since there is ambiguity in what “local or metropolitan area” constitutes, the employer should consider choosing a provider as close to the workplace as possible. Problems arise when the employee’s residence is quite a distance from the employer’s workplace, and the employee must travel to those providers. While the statute provides that the distance is measured from the place of employment, some Judges will disregard this determination if the mileage from the residence is excessive. In those cases, it can be advantageous for the employer to discuss this with the employee and if a mutual provider can be selected who is closer to the employee’s residence, then it can avoid this issue.