Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Irene Wymes v. Bonitz Brothers, Inc., No. A-83356.
Paul L. Zeigler, Goldberg, Evans & Katzman, P.C., for petitioner.
Sandra L. Meilton, Hepford, Swartz, Menaker & Morgan, for respondent, Irene Wymes.
Judges Williams, Jr., Doyle and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barbieri. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Doyle.
[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 595]
Bonitz Brothers, Inc., Petitioner, comes before us in this workmen's compensation case with the sole contention that the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) erred in affirming an award by a referee of travel expenses incurred by Irene Wymes (Claimant), in connection with out-of-state medical care. We will affirm.*fn1
Claimant has been under continuous medical care since she sustained a work-related injury on March 8, 1980 and the insurance carrier has been paying medical expenses throughout that period. Having failed to obtain relief, after a discussion with her attending physician in her home area, on her suggestion, she was referred by the physician to a New York surgeon who had successfully performed surgical services on her for a previous and unrelated problem at a time when Claimant was living in New York City. When approached by Claimant, the carrier agreed to pay the charges for the surgical and medical care to be performed by Dr. Elie J. Sarkis in New York. Apparently, after tests were done preliminarily in Pennsylvania, the carrier agreed to and did write a letter to Dr. Sarkis authorizing and agreeing to pay for surgery and other medical care performed by him on Claimant. The letter to Dr. Sarkis contained no mention of travel expenses, nor did the referee find that the carrier had agreed to pay travel expenses.
The carrier contends that it has been paying Claimant's medical expenses even when performed by physicians outside of her home area, but has no obligation
[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 596]
to pay such expenses required by Claimant in order to get the treatment in New York City.
This issue, of course, is to be considered in light of the medical services provisions of Section 306(f)(1) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act),*fn2 in which the relevant portion provides:
The employer shall provide payment for reasonable surgical and medical services, . . . and supplies, as and when needed. . . .
Obviously, the question before us is whether or not the travel expenses required to obtain the medical services in New York City in this case are "reasonable" and fall within the scope of medical services "as and when needed." Before the referee and here, Claimant has contended that a contract obligation arose by virtue of the carrier's letter to Dr. Sarkis under which she argues the carrier obligated itself to pay travel expenses as an incident to the medical services which it authorized and for which it agreed to pay.*fn3 The carrier, on the other hand, maintains that not only was there no contract to pay travel expenses, but such expenses are not authorized by the Act, relying upon the Superior Court case of Goliat v. Butler Consolidated Coal Co., 155 Pa. Superior Ct. 254, 38 A.2d 727 ...