One of the sadder stories in recent years has been the opioid epidemic in the United States. It’s been an issue of great importance in state legislatures across the country, and it’s something President Trump has spoken about frequently.
One idea being used to help reduce opioid abuse is reducing the number of opioid prescriptions filled for workers’ compensation claims. A study conducted by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) examined the trends of long-term opioid use in workers’ compensation claims.
The good news from the study is that most of the 26 states evaluated saw a decrease in the number of long-term prescriptions. The bad news is that Louisiana was not one of those states. During the period being researched, long-term opioid prescriptions increased by about 1.5%.
Of all the states researched, Louisiana had the highest levels of opioid prescriptions dispensed through the workers’ compensation system. Approximately 1-6 injured workers had long-term opioid prescriptions. In states like Nevada, Wisconsin and Missouri, that number is only 1-25.
Legislative solutions to help reduce opioid addiction
Lawmakers in Baton Rouge have been working to try to implement legislation to help reduce injured workers’ dependence on opioids. One major piece of legislation that was introduced and passed through committee was HB 592.
This bill would have created a drug formulary for workers’ compensation claims. A formulary is a list of drugs that could be provided through the workers’ compensation system. These drug formularies have become increasingly common in a number of other states, including Texas and Tennessee.
However, the bill did not make it through the Senate in time. The legislation was also opposed by Governor John Bel Edwards and by Sheral Kellar, the Director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation. Critics of the bill said that it would increase wait times and wouldn’t improve the care that injured workers received.
While HB 592 failed to be enacted, there were three other pieces of opioid legislation that were signed into law.
- First-time opioid prescriptions are now limited to only seven days. Doctors should also discuss the risks with their patients before prescribing opioid medication.
- The Advisory Council on Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education was created. This council will collect data on opioid use and monitor current statewide initiatives to help curb opioid addiction.
- Beginning January 1, 2018, physicians must check a prescription monitoring system prior to prescribing opioids to any of their patients. This system will help doctors ensure that patients aren’t receiving opioids from multiple physicians.
While continued dependence on opioid medication remains a problem, it’s important that injured workers are still able to receive the care they need. The hope is that lawmakers can find solutions that limit opioid abuse while allowing workers to receive the health care needed to help them move forward after an injury.