§97-18.1. Termination or suspension of compensation benefits.
(a) Payments of compensation pursuant to an award of the Commission shall continue until the terms of the award have been fully satisfied.
(b) An employer may terminate payment of compensation for total disability being paid pursuant to G.S. 97-29 when the employee has returned to work for the same or a different employer, subject to the provisions of G.S. 97-32.1, or when the employer contests a claim pursuant to G.S. 97-18(d) within the time allowed thereunder. The employer shall promptly notify the Commission and the employee, on a form prescribed by the Commission, of the termination of compensation and the availability of trial return to work and additional compensation due the employee for any partial disability.
(c) An employer seeking to terminate or suspend compensation being paid pursuant to G.S. 97-29 for a reason other than those specified in subsection (b) of this section shall notify the employee and the employee's attorney of record in writing of its intent to do so on a form prescribed by the Commission. A copy of the notice shall be filed with the Commission. This form shall contain the reasons for the proposed termination or suspension of compensation, be supported by available documentation, and inform the employee of the employee's right to contest the termination or suspension by filing an objection in writing with the Commission within 14 days of the date the employer's notice is filed with the Commission or within such additional reasonable time as the Commission may allow.
(d) If the employee fails to object to the employer's notice of proposed termination or suspension within the time provided, the Commission may enter an appropriate order terminating or suspending the compensation if it finds that there is a sufficient basis under this Article for this action. If the employee files a timely objection to the employer's notice, the Commission shall conduct an informal hearing by telephone with the parties or their counsel. If either party objects to conducting the hearing by telephone, the Commission may conduct the hearing in person in Raleigh or at another location selected by the Commission. The parties shall be afforded an opportunity to state their position and to submit documentary evidence at the informal hearing. The employer may waive the right to an informal hearing and proceed to the formal hearing. The informal hearing, whether by telephone or in person, shall be conducted only on the issue of termination or suspension of compensation and shall be conducted within 25 days of the receipt by the Commission of the employer's notice to the employee unless this time is extended by the Commission for good cause. The Commission shall issue a decision on the employer's application for termination of compensation within five days after completion of the informal hearing. The decision shall (i) approve the application, (ii) disapprove the application, or (iii) state that the Commission is unable to reach a decision on the application in an informal hearing, in which event the Commission shall schedule a formal hearing pursuant to G.S. 97-83 on the employer's application for termination of compensation. Compensation may be terminated or suspended by the employer following an informal hearing only if its application is approved. If the Commission was unable to reach a decision in the informal hearing, the employee's compensation shall continue pending a decision by the Commission in the formal hearing. The Commission's decision in the informal hearing is not binding in subsequent hearings.
The employer or the employee may request a formal hearing pursuant to G.S. 97-83 on the Commission's decision approving or denying the employer's application for termination of compensation. A formal hearing under G.S. 97-83 ordered or requested pursuant to this section shall be a hearing de novo on the employer's application for termination or suspension of compensation and may be scheduled by the Commission on a preemptive basis.
(e) At an informal hearing on the issue of termination or suspension of compensation, and at any subsequent hearing, the Commission may address related issues regarding the selection of medical providers or treatment under G.S. 97-25, subject to exhaustion of the dispute resolution procedures of a managed care organization pursuant to G.S. 97-25.2. (1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 679, ss. 3.6, 10.9.)
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