Workplace injuries and illnesses can have a significant impact on businesses across the country, in terms of insurance claims, increased costs and administrative responsibilities. Naturally, employers place a significant emphasis on mitigating risk and finding ways to keep staff members healthy and safe while on the job.
Drug use - both prescription and illegal - and can be a threat to workplace wellness and a company's bottom line. Many injured workers turn to medication as a means to recover and return to work, but some develop dependencies on these drugs, leading to additional complications and the potential for higher costs. Therefore, addressing this key issue is a priority for employers in every industry, as well as lawmakers on a state and federal level.
Legislation would target drug use
The widespread prominence of prescription drugs in workers' compensation insurance claims has sparked a new debate about how to curb addiction and dependency on these costly medications.
According to Business Insurance, several states have begun to discuss legislation to prevent physician-dispensed drugs from affecting workers' compensation claims. This problem refers to the practice of doctors selling prescriptions to patients at a markup compared to a retail pharmacy price. This purchase is then factored into the overall expense of the workers' comp claim.
Brian Allen, vice president of government affairs at the Ohio-based Progressive Medical Inc. and Florida-based PMSI Inc., told Business Insurance that Florida's recent law addressing the physician-dispensed drug issue is good news for all other states.
"A wave is kind of sweeping right now because we broke the logjam in Florida," he explained to the news source. "When Florida tipped, it gave other states a little bit of courage to push forward and see if they could come to an agreement."
Since that time, more than 15 additional states have proposed similar legislation that would limit the practice and potentially save employers a significant financial hit related to workers' comp insurance, Business Insurance reported. For example, laws have been discussed in Hawaii, California and Arizona, while Indiana recently passed a bill to prevent physician dispensing and drug repackaging. In many cases, it helps to be proactive about the issue, because acquiring this type of drug can lead to higher expenses and a longer time away from work.
Positive drug cost trend appears
The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the workers' comp insurance industry hinges on several factors, one of which being the prevalence of prescription drug use among injured workers. While legislation to limit the impact of physician-dispensed drugs has gained momentum in several states, other positive trends have also emerged across the country.
According to the recently merged pharmacy benefit management company of Progressive Medical and PMSI, prescription drug costs have started to slip, as have the number of patients using expensive painkillers, such as opioid analgesics. The entity's 2014 Drug Trend Report indicated that prescription cost per workers' comp claim is down 1.7 percent compared to last year's survey results. In addition, opioid use is down 5 percent and opioid prescription cost per claim has decreased 6 percent.
Moreover, Progressive Medical and PMSI noted that the Morphine Equivalency Dose also ticked down on a yearly basis, now 9.6 percent lower in 2014 compared to 2013.
Tommy Young, co-CEO of the company, said in a statement that average wholesale price inflation continues to increase across the country, but companies still have options to ensure injured workers receive the medication they need in an affordable manner.
Overall, these positive trends affecting the workers' comp insurance industry are good news for all employers. The likelihood of additional measures to curb costs while still providing crucial treatment methods to injured workers remains high.