New Pennsylvania Bill Harms Workers and Helps Insurance Companies

August 17, 2017

According to the Morning Call newspaper, a dispute is brewing between Pennsylvania attorneys who represent injured workers and insurance companies about how to help workers who have been affected by the opioid prescription abuse crisis. A new bill introduced in Harrisburg by a Republican congressman seeks to establish a preapproved list of medications, including some opioids and pain medications, that injured workers can receive under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. The list also includes time limits and dosage amounts for each drug. Non-approved medications would need to go through a burdensome appeals process.

Both Republicans and Democrats recognize the dangers of over-prescribing painkillers. Those opposed to the bill argue that it favors the insurance industry while limiting the ability of the worker to get necessary treatment and limiting the worker’s relationship with the physician because doctors will need to focus on complying with the new regulations. The dispute is not just being played out in the legislature. An advocacy group in opposition to the bill is running ads in support of their position, claiming the bill is all about insurance company profit and not about helping the injured worker. The ads are part of a trend on both sides to spend millions of dollars to build support for their positions.

Backstory of the proposed legislation

The current opioid bill is an outgrowth of similar legislation (that failed) to restrict other necessary medical services, including chiropractic help and physical therapy in addition to medications and other forms of medical care. The lead advocacy group opposed to the current bill, HB18, fears, among other concerns, that passage of opioid limits alone is just the first step to resurrecting the proposed limits on other types of medical care desperately needed by injured workers. The president of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council worries that the bill damages the patient-doctor relationship even though he acknowledges the dangers of opioid prescription abuse.

Advocates in support of the bill, such as the president of CompPharma, a workers’ compensation pharmacy benefit association, argue that 13% of opioid prescription costs in the U.S. are due to workers’ compensation cases.

Getting health after a work injury is a difficult process. The recovery process usually involves managing pain. At Larry Pitt & Associates, we fight to help injured workers get the medical help they need. While we recognize the dangers of opioid abuse addiction, we believe those decisions should be directed by your physicians and not the insurance carrier. For help with any work-related injury please call 888.PITT.LAW to talk with one of our Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys. We represent clients in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.