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Boston Workers with Settled Workers’ Compensation Claims May Receive Benefits of Pilot Program Instituted to Reduce Drug Addiction

After being alarmed by the incidence of overdoses and deaths among people in the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system, an administrative judge for the Massachusetts Division of Industrial Accidents, Omar Hernandez, wanted to begin a program to help injured workers receiving treatment with opioids.  According to a news article, Boston workers who suffer injuries in the course and scope of employment, and have settled claims for benefits, may receive information on alternative treatments for their pain.  The program, which is voluntary, aims to reduce the use of opioids and other narcotics by working with care coordinators who can assist workers looking into medical treatment. The care coordinator is an intermediary between the injured worker and the insurance company, working to secure good alternative treatment options.The program is used as a tool to change behaviors, which have been based on reducing the pain for injured workers in the short term by prescribing opioids.  Instead, by understanding the long-term effects, workers and insurance companies can work to discover opportunities for better care and less addiction.

All workers’ compensation cases are handled by judges within the state Department of Industrial Accidents. This agency is within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Judges within the Department of Industrial Accidents noted an increase in overdoses and deaths due to opioid addiction, and they hoped the pilot would resolve cases swiftly, as a tool to fight an opioid epidemic.

According to the program, a care coordinator is assigned to mediate treatment options.  The injured worker and the insurance company that pays for medical care work to resolve cases.  The program is appropriate for those workers who have settled their workers’ compensation cases and are receiving opioid treatment when the insurance company decides to stop payment for the continued use of the drug.  Often, these cases can continue for months and up to a year, while the individual continues receiving prescription opioids.

The pilot program is voluntary and does not incur additional costs for Massachusetts to implement.  The process fast-tracks proceedings in court so that injured workers need not wait extended periods of time for resolution.  At any time, the worker or the insurance company can opt to withdraw from the program and return to traditional dispute resolution.

To develop the program, input from injured workers, physicians, insurance companies, and others, such as substance use specialists, informed the Department of Industrial Accidents.

Finding alternatives to prescription opioid medication is the goal of the program, and other states are implementing similar programs, including Ohio and New York.  For example, Ohio has instituted a policy that denies reimbursement for prescriptions for periods when there is reason to believe physicians are overprescribing the medication to an injured worker.

Whether you or someone close to you is suffering from a work-related injury, you have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits, according to Massachusetts law. To schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal obligations and rights, call an experienced Boston workers’ compensation attorney at the Law Offices of Attorney Michael O. Smith.  Our office can be reached at (617) 263-0060.

More Blog Posts:

Study finds there can be benefits for injured workers and insurers when a nurse case manager is assigned to a workers compensation case, Boston Workers Compensation Attorney Blog, June 22, 2015

Injured Employee Entitled to Continuing Benefits, Since Insurer Failed to Meet Burden of Showing Medical Condition Improved According to Massachusetts Law, Boston Workers Compensation Attorney Blog, January 12, 2017

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