How the National Opioid Crisis Is Impacting the Workers’ Compensation System

Workers Compensation attorneyThe National Council on Compensation Insurance recently published a report that highlights the impact the national opioid crisis has had on the United States’ workers’ compensation system. Researchers found that injured workers who were prescribed at least one prescription in 2016 received three times as many opioid prescriptions. Yet, doctors believe that while the opioid crisis has been costly, the workers’ compensation system is still better equipped at handling the opioid epidemic than the general public. This is largely due to better adherence to treatment plans, coupled with the regular drug testing of injured workers.

Opioid Prescriptions Can Be Costly

Managing chronic pain with opioid prescriptions has been crushing to the workers’ compensation system. Prescription opioid abuse makes it more difficult to control the ultimate costs of indemnity losses, which is the number one reason workers’ compensation claims escalate. In fact, up to 75% of all claimants were prescribed opioids for chronic pain relief in 2012.

Even though workers’ compensation laws aim to get injured employees back to work quickly, opioids may actually have the opposite effect. A study conducted by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), which examined workers who had sustained work-related low back injuries, found that when workers were prescribed opioids to help manage their pain, the duration of temporary disability benefits actually tripled. On average, workers who were given long-term opioid prescriptions were on temporary disability for nearly a year.

Reducing the Impact of Opioid Addiction

THE WCRI believes that policymakers can use this data to begin reducing the impact of opioid addiction on the workers’ compensation system. In particular, limiting opioid prescriptions to seven days for injured workers may result in a faster return to work. Preventing opioid misuse from starting is the best way to reduce the opioid crisis’ negative impact on the workers’ compensation system.

How Bad Is the Opioid Crisis in Florida?

In Florida, someone dies from an opioid overdose very two and a half hours. Even worse, the number of opioid deaths in the state is escalating quickly.  For example, in Orange County, Florida, opioid deaths have skyrocketed more than 70% over the last three years. Shockingly, 12% of all fatal opioid overdoses in the United States occur in Florida. To combat this, Governor Rick Scott declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

Have You Been Injured on the Job?

The opioid crisis has affected everyone in Florida, and injured workers are not immune. If you are having difficulties collecting the workers’ compensation benefits to which you are entitled, we can help. At Scott J. Sternberg & Associates, our West Palm Beach workers’ compensation attorneys can assist you after a serious on-the-job injury. With offices conveniently located in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Orlando, we are ready and able to assist you. Contact us today at 561-687-5660 for a free consultation and review of your case.

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