What can be done to fight the opioid epidemic?

Workers’ compensation industry leading the way in the fight against opioid abuse through new technology.

The Wall Street Journal published a fascinating article about opioid addiction and how the workers’ compensation industry is leading the fight against this nationwide problem. Insurers spent $1.54 billion on opioids during 2015. This represents 13% of total U.S. spending on this class of drugs. Predictive algorithms have now been developed to identify high risk individuals and steer them toward alternate treatments. The goal is to stop people from becoming addicted.

The New York Times also published an article showing workers’ compensation claims with opioids are much higher. 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.

We have blogged about this topic for several years. Many of our clients have chronic pain symptoms and need management. Long-term opioid use can lead to addiction and extended periods of disability. It can also be a gateway to illicit drugs such as heroin. Michigan law requires payment of all reasonable and necessary medical treatment. This includes drug abuse counseling and inpatient treatment.

According to a WCRI study, Michigan has seen a 31% drop in opioid prescriptions from 2012-2014. The Workers’ Compensation Agency (WCA) also published new administrative rules in 2014 that prohibit reimbursement of opioid prescriptions beyond 90 days unless detailed physician reporting requirements and other processes are met.

We have been critical of rules that limit opioid prescriptions. Our experience shows that a one-size-fits-all approach is not always the answer. Doctors must be free to use professional judgment when prescribing medications for their patients. However, it is clear that more needs to be done to solve this problem. Using technology to identity high risk individuals and provide them with options seems like a good approach. We just hope it is not used to arbitrarily stop medical benefits.

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.

Related information:

New bureaucratic hurdles for opioid reimbursement

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Charles Williams.

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