Painkillers and workers compensation; New information shows that the use of medication increases costs while increasing disability.

Painkillers and workers compensation; New information shows that the use of medication increases costs while increasing disability.

New information is now linking the use of medication, a common practice of occupational medicine doctors is causing workers compensation costs to rise while putting injured workers on disability.

In NJ, the problem is especially bad, since workers cannot self direct their care to the provider of their choice. When given the choice, many workers are now choosing chiropractic, yet, in NJ, most are not given the choice since most insurance carriers refuse to authorize chiropractic care.

Often the scapegoat for rising costs, chiropractic is practically non existant since they are rarely authorized by plans within the state to help manage injured workers. Most workers are given medication and told to take time off and if that does not work, they are usually sent to occupational health clinics for mediocre therapy or worse, sent to medical specialists for more medication and in the worst cases surgery.

Dr. William Charschan thinks this is nuts. Having a brother in law who works for Crawford, a well known care management company, he knows that in NY, just a state away, chiropractors are helping Crawford keep treatment costs in line. When chiropractors are used, drug use decreases and workers get back to work faster. The current law allowing insurers to direct care is crazy and needs to be rethought, especially since current research is now showing that medical care in workers compensation is part of the problem of costs, rather than part of the solution.

Check out the NY Times article below.

Pain Pills Add Cost and Delays to Job Injuries

Workplace insurers are accustomed to making billions of dollars in payments each year, with the biggest sums going to employees hurt in major accidents, like those mangled by machines or crushed in building collapses.

Now they are dealing with another big and fast-growing cost — payouts to workers with routine injuries who have been treated with strong painkillers, including many who do not return to work for months, if ever.

Workplace insurers spend an estimated $1.4 billion annually on narcotic painkillers, or opioids. But they are also finding that the medications, if used too early in treatment, too frequently or for too long, can drive up associated disability payouts and medical expenses by delaying an employee’s return to work.

Workers who received high doses of opioid painkillers to treat injuries like back strain stayed out of work three times longer than those with similar injuries who took lower doses, a 2008 study of claims by the California Workers Compensation Institute found. When medical care and disability payments are combined, the cost of a workplace injury is nine times higher when a strong narcotic like OxyContin is used than when a narcotic is not used, according to a 2010 analysis by Accident Fund Holdings, an insurer that operates in 18 states.

Read more here