House Bill 18 Threatens the Rights of Injured Workers

This past February, Representative Ryan Mackenzie introduced House Bill 18 which he claims is designed to address opioid abuse and addiction among injured workers in Pennsylvania.

The proposed bill would require comprehensive evidence-based treatment guidelines, including a drug “formulary,” or a pre-approved list of drugs prescribed to injured workers receiving medical treatment under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act. Any drugs prescribed outside the approved list would require a doctor's written authorization that it is medically necessary, and even then insurance companies could still challenge the prescription. The bill also proposes to implement a set duration of treatment and establish dosage amounts for those hurt on the job.

Supporters say the bill is needed to curb the overuse of opioids among injured workers. According to the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, Pennsylvania ranked third in a recent 25-state study of the amount of opioids prescribed to injured workers.

However, opponents say the bill caters to the insurance industry and leaves injured workers without proper medical treatment by hindering the doctor-patient relationship. The implementation of a drug formulary for work place injuries would undermine doctors’ professional expertise in treating patients and decrease the treatment options available for employees injured on the job. Every patient should have the right to a customized treatment plan from a physician whose chief concern is the patient’s recovery.

Gregg Potter, president of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council, believes that opioid abuse among injured workers need to be curtailed but thinks the bill interferes with the doctor-patient relationship. “There are good doctors and bad doctors, so how do we know the doctors creating the formulary are good for patients?” Many believe that HB 18 strongly promotes the interests of insurance companies and would majorly limit doctors' treatment options when it comes to achieving the best possible outcome for their patients.

UPDATE (June 21, 2017): The state House has postponed a vote on the bill.

Source: The Morning Call

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