Opioid Use May Be Draining Workers Compensation Budget

By | March 9, 2017

The newest public health epidemic is probably not what you think. Opioid use tops the list of health crises in America. At both the state and federal levels, law enforcement is trying to get a handle on the crisis by imposing stricter laws, having more stringent distribution limits and altering the way that prescription drugs can legally be dispersed. 

Law enforcement isn’t the only big industry, trying to tackle the epidemic. The construction industry is trying desperately to get a handle on the overuse of opioid management in relation to workers’ compensation. Opioid use is draining the construction industry’s workers’ compensation budget and affecting its bottom line.

There is an abundance of businesses that are continually paying out for legacy workers’ compensation claims. A legacy workers’ compensation claim is one that can be open for years at a time.

In fact, sometimes it can stretch the entire lifetime of an employee. Even after the injury is resolved, those workers who have become dependent or addicted to painkillers are still eligible to have their medications covered under workers’ compensation benefits. That leads to businesses paying out money for injured workers for years, if not decades, after the injury was sustained. Thats why its important to find a workers lawyer you can trust in the process.

Medical guidelines outline the importance that opioids only be used for short-term and acute care. The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has concluded that after 60 days of use, the effectiveness of using opioids as a means of pain management plateaus. That means that it is no longer an effective means for pain management. However, many people who are injured on the job take narcotics for far longer than the guidelines recommend.

Not only does that lead to higher medical expenses for the company, but it also leads to decreased worker productivity once they return to their position. It also runs the risk that the worker will claim disability, which further adds costs to a business’s overall profit margin.

A realistic way for employers to curb the detrimental effects of abusing opioids is to address drug management protocols at an organizational level instead of not getting involved in the workers’ compensation system.

By creating an overall campaign within an organization to educate employees about the dangers of opioid use, the hope is to curb workers from the risks of addiction or dependence. It is also imperative that the business selects a workers’ compensation panel that is experienced in drug protocol and monitoring.

Statistics show that as much as sixty percent of medical costs are related to workers’ compensation claims. Of those claims, twenty-five percent of the costs are related to narcotic drugs. The hardest hit is the construction industry. They have seen the greatest rise in narcotic use rate of an industry, which is affecting their overall profit and productivity.

The best way to control workers’ compensation claims is to have a plan in place to ensure that you control the use of narcotics. The best way to do so is to:

Select a physician panel 

Make sure that you screen for and identify those physicians that are used for workers’ compensation claims. Find ones who are more conservative when it comes to opioid therapies. Not all employers are allowed to do so, but if you live in a state that allows it, this is an imperative step to take.

Use a pharmacy benefit management program

Pharmacy benefit managers can find out when an injured worker is receiving drugs from more than one prescriber. That can help to target those workers who have a problem.

Educate your employees

Make sure to have educational training for your employees to explain the harmful nature of opioid use. Explaining that narcotic treatment is only useful for 60 days may stop employees from overusing opioids as a viable means of pain management.

Call your claims consultant frequently

Make sure that you establish a rapport with your claims consultant to pinpoint when there is a real problem. The best way to manage narcotic use is to identify when there is a problem and gain control — before things get out of control.

Prescription drug use has become an epidemic in America. To help curb the costs paid through workers’ compensation, it takes a multi-dimensional approach which includes the employer maintaining control when possible. If things get out of control, it will start to hurt business’s bottom line.

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