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Workers’ Compensation Pilot Program Targets Opioid-Related Issues for Massachusetts Workers

Injured workers, like others dealing with pain, may turn to painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin to alleviate their symptoms.  Throughout the nation, and particularly in Massachusetts, workers’ compensation systems are attempting to stop the overprescription of these powerful painkillers to workers.  This reflects an effort to help workers avoid addiction and potentially dire consequences, such as fatal overdoses.

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Last year, Boston, along with the rest of the state, entered into a voluntary program to help injured workers who have settled their claims for Massachusetts workers’ compensation receive treatment for pain management. The intention of the program is to limit the use of opioids or other narcotics.  By coordinating chronic pain management options other than the use of prescription opioids, the chance of an injured worker becoming addicted to medication lessens.

Insurance companies for employers pay for prescription medications when injured workers receive workers’ compensation benefits for their injuries, and a prescription has been indicated as treatment. As employees pay into the workers’ compensation insurance systems, states are responsible for oversight of the insurer.  The insurance company is responsible for providing medical care and reimbursing wage loss to workers who have suffered work-related injuries and successfully filed a claim for benefits.

The Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, which is an agency within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, handles workers’ compensation cases brought by workers throughout the state. According to a news article, discussing the opioid addiction among injured workers, administrative judges assessing workers’ compensation claims in Massachusetts were struck by the number of deaths and overdoses of employees in the state workers’ compensation system.  The pilot program was seen as one method of reducing these tragic incidences.

The program specifically applies to those individuals who have settled their workers’ compensation cases but are still receiving treatment with opioids.  When an insurance company moves to stop payment for continued use of opioids, the injured worker can face months and up to a year for the case to settle.  The program offers an expedited hearing process that helps resolve medication disputes between insurance companies and workers.  A case coordinator assists workers as they investigate alternative treatments for their pain.

According to the press release, the program would not cost the state additional money to implement. The process provides a way to fast-track court proceedings. While some cases drag on for months or even a year, this program seeks to provide a quicker resolution.  Additionally, since the program is voluntary for the worker and for the insurance company, either party can opt out of the program at any time.

After suffering an injury in the course and scope of employment, workers may file for benefits and compensation by pursuing a workers’ compensation claim. Massachusetts provides for medical costs and wages associated with work-related injuries, as well as disability payments, depending on the circumstances of the case. At Pulgini & Norton, our Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers help people throughout the state, and we provide a free consultation.  Contact our office by calling (781) 843-2000 or reach us online.

More Blog Posts:

New Regulations Limit the Prices for Doctor-Dispensed Drugs, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, July 24, 2012

Pain Management and Workers’ Compensation, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, April 23, 2014

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