The Princess and the Pea: Liability for Prescription Mattresses?

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When is a mattress a covered medical expense under the Virginia Worker’s Compensation Act? The answer may change depending on the facts of the case.

The general rule is that orthopedic type mattresses do not meet the definition of necessary medical attention under Virginia Code § 65.2-603. The Commission has consistently held that mattresses do not meet the definition of “necessary medical attention.” Hutcherson v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 65 O.I.C. 268 (1986); Griffin v. Richardson-Wayland Electrical Corp., VWC File No. 155-38-38 (Oct. 19, 1992)(holding that an orthopedic box spring and mattress is not included in the terms “medical attention” or “orthotic appliance” for which the employer is responsible); Williams v. Hercules, Inc., 64 O.I.C. 357 (1985)(holding that a waterbed does not meet the definition of “medical attention”).

But, the Commission has held that in certain cases, a prescribed mattress may be considered an “appliance” under section 603(A)(1)(ii). Wratchford v. Townsend Tree Service Co., VSC File No. 215-83-38 (Mar. 18, 2008). This is a case-by-case determination. In Wratchford, the Commission was asked to rule with respect to a magnetic RX mattress that was prescribed by the treating physician as a device designed with a particular purpose of addressing the claimant’s pain situation. In that case, the Commission determined that the bed could be considered an appliance under 603(A)(1)(ii).

The Commission determined that the mattress was medically necessary where the treating physician had provided a detailed scientific explanation of why and how the appliance was needed to treat and alleviate the claimant’s pain.

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