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How the Opioid Epidemic Has Hit the Workers’ Compensation System

How the Opioid Epidemic Has Hit the Workers’ Compensation SystemThe workers’ compensation industry is not immune to the ongoing opioid crisis, according to a report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). While the NCCI’s report states that “the workers compensation system is better off than the public at large” in battling against an opioid epidemic, the study also shows that injured workers who were prescribed at least one prescription in 2016 received three times as many opioid prescriptions as the U.S. opioid-prescribing rate – which, according to the Centers for Disease Control, was 61 prescriptions per 100 persons in 2016.

The worker’s compensation regulatory system typically includes observance of guidelines, strict adherence to treatment plans and regular drug testing of injured workers, which can help claims professionals quickly identify signs of addiction. However, early identification of risk is just one step in the battle against opioid addiction in the workers’ compensation system.

Opioid Prescriptions Can Extend Workers’ Comp Claim Duration

One study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found that opioid prescriptions increase the duration of temporary disability benefits – up to three times longer than workers without opioid prescriptions. According to the study, The Impact of Opioid Prescriptions on Duration of Temporary Disability, longer-term opioid prescriptions for work-related low back injuries resulted in workers taking more than triple the amount of time off for temporary disability than injured workers with no opioid prescriptions. Those patients with long-term opioid prescriptions were observed to be on temporary disability for almost a year, on average.

When researchers looked at the results of prescribing only a small number of opioid prescriptions over a short period of time, they noticed that this technique did not lengthen the amount of time workers were on temporary disability.

Policymakers Can Help Address Long-Term Opioid Prescriptions

Using the above findings, the WCRI survey surmises that policymakers have an opportunity to address the issue and enact laws that help reduce opioid addiction in the workers’ compensation system. According to WCRI’s president and CEO, John Ruser, “Based on the results of this study, there is a clear implication that policies addressing inappropriate longer-term opioid prescribing will result in faster return to work.”

The New York Workers Comp system has begun addressing the opioid issue through a comprehensive drug formulary, which limits new opioid prescriptions to seven days for injured workers and ensure that refills for opioids are subject to prior authorization. Other states are beginning to follow suit, adopting evidence-based drug formularies to be used in conjunction with evidence-based treatment guidelines to help stop opioid misuse in the workers’ comp system before it can even start.

About ASIA Workers’ Compensation

Associated Specialty Insurance Agency, Inc. has been “The Workers’ Compensation Specialist for Brokers and Agents” for the past two decades and is committed to providing brokers and insurance agents across the East Coast with expertise and services to develop a Workers’ Compensation policy. For more information about how we can assist you with claims management, anti-fraud measures, and more call (610) 543-5510 to speak with one of our professionals.

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