How employers can improve workers’ compensation programs

The workers’ compensation system exists to protect workers in case they suffer injuries on the job. A successful claim grants the injured worker workers’ compensation benefits that can be utilized to cover medical treatment for the injury and also replace lost wages. However, it is possible that the very workers’ compensation system that is supposed to protect workers may be harming them.

According to recent research analyzing states where injured workers were prescribed opiod drugs, approximately 80 percent of injured workers are given at least one opiate prescription and around one in six continue to use the medicine up to a year after their injuries. In North Carolina, around 10 percent of workers were given opioids on a longer term basis. The study defined longer term usage as having three or more prescriptions for narcotics three to six months after the injury took place.

These opioids are administered with minimal psychological treatment or drug testing. Inappropriate opioid use can lead to addiction, overdose and even distribution to others. The cost to families and workers may end up being more than that of the injury itself. However, it is possible that employers analyze their workers’ compensation programs for flaws to ensure their workers are not getting unnecessary medication.

North Carolina employers should confirm that their insurers are monitoring patient’s opioid use and should study their medication therapy management programs to make sure patients are adhering to the prescribed plan. Employers can play an important role in improving the workers’ compensation system for the benefit of everyone involved.

Source:, “Five ways to curb workplace drug risks,” Richard Victor, Aug. 8, 2013

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