Workers’ Comp News from Annmarie’s Inbox

boysellingnewspapersWorkers’ compensation news does not take a summer vacation.

Drugs, safety and comp claim costs – my inbox is chock full of good stuff — just like the days of old when I covered workers’ comp full time. Relieved from completing a big client project, I give you my take of recent news.

If you have not seen the New York Times’ “Soaring Cost of the Opioid Economy,” you should check it out. The infographic’s tidbits include: average workers’ compensation claims for lost time with opioids: $39,000; without: $13,000. Claims involving strong opioids like OxyContin: $117,000.

Of course, we CompJunkies know that a lot caveats get lost in the shuffle to reach those average numbers, but they are better than nothing. Thanks to Debby Nowsowski, retired lobbyist for the American Insurance Association and Firemen’s Fund Insurance for sending this to me!

It remains unbelievable to me that doctors who take the Hippocratic oath will directly sell narcotics to their patients.

Florida Ban on Physician Dispensing of Opioids Reduced Opioid Prescribing A Florida law that bans physician dispensing of stronger opioids reduced injured worker opioid use, according to a study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI). The law generally banned doctors from dispensing stronger opioids, sending injured workers to get their meds the old-fashioned way: at the pharmacy.

Anyone in CompLand could have guessed these results, but now, thanks to WCRI, we once again have evidence that tougher laws work.Massachusetts has had stricter laws for awhile and California’s laws show that doctor’s will continue to distribute drugs even if the profit margin is significantly.

I covered the direct relationship between opioid use and physician dispensing in more detail in a previous blog. It remains unbelievable to me that doctors who take the Hippocratic oath will directly sell narcotics to their patients. This has got to stop!

It is simply irresponsible not to have such laws in every state in the country. Employers, insurers and injured workers unite! You’ve got to fight the medical and pharmaceutical industries on this one!

Moving on, here’s another frustrating truth: As we have heard before, group health pays less for the same care as workers’ compensation.

Hospital outpatient payments for shoulder surgeries in workers’ compensation were at least $2,000 — or 43 percent — higher than group health, according to another WCRI study, Comparing Workers’ Compensation and Group Health Hospital Outpatient Payments

This is the first WCRI study that compared hospital payments for the same surgical procedure when paid for by group health versus workers’ compensation. Nobody who has done time in CompLand is surprised. Similar studies have been coming out for more than 15 years, at least from the Integrated Benefits Institute. The fact is simple: workers’ compensation and group health play by different laws, rules and contracts. This affects outcomes for workers and their employers.

Speaking of outcomes, here’s a weather-related take on workplace safety. Employers could possibly reduce costs associated with work-related illnesses and injuries by paying more attention to the weather according to an Executive Update by WorkersComp Analytics.

Add this to your daily safety checklist. Weather can affect worker health and productivity. For example, certain temperature changes, wind speeds and airborne particles can increase ER visits for those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Forewarning employees or providing alternative work on at-risk days could prevent unnecessary ER visits. One study showed ER visits declined 20 percent when employees were informed.

Flu outbreaks can be predicted seven weeks in advance using weather data and Google trends, the report said. Further, it advises employers to take advantage of NOAA’s National Climate Data Center to anticipate how weather changes can affect workers.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading! Feel free to offer your views as well.


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