Two new studies on opioid use in the California workers’ compensation system found that although opioid prescriptions still reflect a significant portion of all pharmaceutical costs, opioids have seen a sharp decline in the Golden State.
The first study found that 47% of injured workers with chronic opioid use weaned off the painkillers completely within 24 months, according to the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California. Injured workers who were not able to wean off the painkillers completely were still found to reduce their opioid dosage by an average of 52%.
MORE GOOD NEWS
The second study found that opioids fell over the past decade from about a third of indemnity claim prescriptions to less than a quarter. The California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) study also found opioid prescription payments fell from 30.5% to 18.6% during that same time period.
KEEP THE GOOD NEWS COMING
California continues to implement programs to reduce the opioid epidemic. The Division of Workers’ Compensation adopted a workers’ compensation drug formulary at the beginning of this year. New York is working to adopt its workers’ compensation drug formulary with a proposed effective date of July 1, 2018, but Pennsylvania failed to pass its drug formulary. With the Ides of March upon us, I figured we could use a good news first story.
Pennsylvania on Point
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Department of Transportation (PennDOT) can be held liable for injuries caused by an allegedly dangerous guardrail on a Pennsylvania highway. The court found that when PennDOT installs a guardrail, sovereign immunity is waived if the agency’s negligent installation and design creates a dangerous condition.
Typically, under the state’s Sovereign Immunity Act, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is immune from suits seeking damages due to negligence, except under certain circumstances. The Act waives immunity for damages due to negligence in which the damages would be recoverable under common law or statute creating a cause of action if the injury was caused by someone who was not eligible for sovereign immunity. The section of highway was along State Route 551 in Beaver County, Penn.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Florida legislature passed a bill (S.B. 376) that would allow first responders to claim post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a compensable condition for workers' compensation. Currently, Florida first responders can get medical coverage under workers’ compensation but not lost wages, if they are diagnosed with PTSD on the job. Gov. Rick Scott announced he would sign the bill at an event to honor firefighters who died in the line of duty.
The Evergreen State’s legislature passed H.B. 1336, a bill that would prohibit the Department of Labor and Industries from reducing workers’ compensation benefits paid to people receiving Social Security retirement benefits. The bill wouldn’t apply to those who already applied for or were receiving retirement benefits at the time of injury. The bill moves to Gov. Jay Inslee's desk for consideration. If Gov. Inslee doesn’t act upon the bill, it will become law without his signature on March 28.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is more than doubling its funding for a new grant program aimed at protecting firefighters from carcinogens and other toxins that cause long-term health ailments. Originally funded at $2 million, the Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant Program has already received 444 grant applications seeking nearly $4.7 million in funding. Firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general public, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
SLEEP AWARENESS WEEK
Just when you lost an hour of sleep due to Daylight Saving Time, this week also brings National Sleep Awareness Week. The annual awareness hopes to bring valuable information about how sleep affects health, well-being, and safety. Indeed, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who get just one to two hours less than the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a car crash. Studies have also shown about 13% of workplace injuries are attributable to sleep deprivation and sleepy workers are estimated to cost employers $136 billion a year in health-related lost productivity. Well, it’s also March Madness so let’s not talk too much about lost productivity this week. Sleep well.