A recent study found that when injured, Illinois workers spend double the amount of time off of work as do workers in other states (Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana). The explanation for why this is may have to do with the rate of opioid use amongst injured workers who seek treatment under workers’ compensation insurance, which is exacerbated by a bizarre system where Illinois’ physicians can sell patients pills directly, rather than just writing them a prescription for it.
What Happens When Doctors Sell Pills
The process is called physician dispensing, and refers to a system where doctors both prescribe pills, and sell them directly, to injured workers. But what’s more, the doctors have the option to sell re-packaged pills as a much higher price, with cost markups averaging between 60 and 300 percent, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.
When doctors are allowed to sell pills to patients directly, the expected occurs: they prescribe 3.2 times the amount of opioid medications that they would otherwise. In other words, they exploit injured workers’ health in order to make personal financial gains.
Wait – Is that Legal?
Illinois lawmakers have tried to do the right thing by eliminating the possibility that doctors can make profits from drugs. In fact, in 2011, legislation was passed that said reimbursement for physician-dispensed drugs and pharmacy-dispensed drugs must be the same.
So a work-around was created in the form of re-packaging; the dosages of existing drugs were altered, and then called new drugs (which of course were more expensive). For example, Vicodin started being prescribed at $3.04 a pill, a rate that was two to four times higher than other drugs with similar characteristics and effects.
The Costs to Injured Workers
Opioid use is dangerous and addictive. But the costs to workers stem beyond losing money alone; injured workers who take repackaged opioid medications spend an average of 85 percent more time at home before heading back to work, and their employers experience a financial loss of more than $22,000 per injury-related incident.
Opioid use can lead to the loss of money, the loss of a job, and even criminal activity. The fact that doctors continue to profit at injured workers’ expense is tragic and unacceptable.
What’s the Solution?
One way to mitigate the problem and protect injured workers in the state is to terminate physician dispensed drugs altogether. Another way is to put limits on the amount of drugs – and for how long – physicians are allowed to dispense drugs.
At the law offices of Fisk & Monteleone LTD., our experienced Rockford workers’ compensation attorneys are passionate about protecting injured workers in our state. If you have been injured at work and need workers’ compensation insurance, or have questions about how to get the medication you need after a workplace accident, we want to help. To learn more, request a free case consultation by calling us today at 815-209-9030.