What should be done about the dangers of prescription opioids in the Michigan workers’ compensation system?
We saw an interesting article in Ars Technica about prescription opioids and overdose. Turns out that 91% of patients who survive an overdose are prescribed even more opioids. Most of the blame seems to be placed on doctors. Suggestions to fix the problem include better drug screening and alternative treatments.
Opioids have been a hot topic in workers’ compensation for years. The Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency (WCA) even published new administrative rules that prohibit reimbursements for opioid treatment beyond 90 days unless detailed physician reporting requirements and other processes are met. This has created more bureaucracy and some claimants have voiced concerns about getting needed prescriptions.
We also recently blogged about how insurance claims are much higher when an opioid has been prescribed. The average cost being $13,000 without an opioid, $39,000 with a short-acting opioid, and $117,000 when a long-acting opioid has been prescribed. This has been a big motivator for insurance companies to tackle the issue head-on.
Medical care is the most important benefit under Michigan workers’ compensation. Many of our clients suffer from chronic pain and it must be managed. Michigan law requires payment of all reasonable and necessary medical treatment. This includes prescription medications like opioids.
Our experience shows that a one size fits all approach does not work. Some of our clients do get addicted to pain medication and they need professional help. We have seen too many cases where the insurance company just stops paying medical benefits using an independent medical examination.
Instead of vilifying treating doctors, give them tools to help claimants get off opioids in a reasonable and responsible way. Insurance companies should be required to pay for this treatment including inpatient rehabilitation if necessary. This will also cut down on those individuals who find their way to illicit drugs.
Cut the red-tape and give treating doctors more deference when assisting their patients. How about a new administrative rule that says treatment for opioid addiction cannot be denied in a previously accepted workers’ compensation claim?
Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation today.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Bill David Brooks.