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.
The Morning Call