PA Workers Comp Patients Receive 2x as many Painkillers than inNJ

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PA Workers Compensation Patients Receive 2x as many Painkillers than in NJ

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In Pennsylvania, an injured worker who is out more than seven days without surgery is typically prescribed twice the amount of narcotics as one in New Jersey, according to a Workers Compensation Research Institute report.
The average morphine equivalent per claim in Pennsylvania was third highest of the 25 states accounting for most workers comp benefits, while New Jersey’s was fourth lowest.

“An injured worker in Pennsylvania receives a 5 mg Vicodin every four hours for three months,” said Vennela Thumula, a policy analyst and coauthor.

Another institute report shows doctors in Pennsylvania can dispense medications directly to patients.  Workers comp will pay a percentage above whatever is designated as the average wholesale price. This is not the case with commercial insurance, Medicaid and Medicare.

Companies who openly market their services to doctors as an income multiplier provide many painkillers. They buy in bulk and repackage them in different quantities with new wholesale prices. Physician-dispensed ibuprofen costs workers comp $.73 per pill in Pennsylvania, vs. $.26 from a pharmacy. The generic equivalent of Percocet costs $3.11 vs. $.64.

In addition to increased workers’ compensation costs, valuable workers are plagued by addiction problems. Workers who are prescribed opioids during the first two weeks of their injury were six times likelier to use narcotics later on, according to a Liberty Mutual Insurance study of workers compensation claimants with disabling low back pain.

A California Workers’ Compensation Institute study reported patients receiving high doses of opioids took three times longer to return to work than injured workers who received lower doses.

In Michigan, claimants who received short-acting opioids such as Oxycodone were 76% likelier to have comp costs exceeding $100,000.

In addition to petitioning the state assembly to approve a physician-monitoring program, employers should work with physicians to ensure they are prescribing opioids at appropriate levels.  Directing injured workers in PA for 90 days to an approved physician can help to limit the exposure to “pill mills”.  Work with your broker and carrier to include this important aspect of an approved physician as part of your evaluation of your medical providers.

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