Category Archives: Health

Opioid Task Force, Recent Studies, and CDC Opioid Recommendations

Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission recently joined many other states (i.e. Massachusetts) in tackling the issue of opioids in the workers’ compensation cases by creating a Workers’ Compensation Opioid Task Force. The goal of the task force is to “study and recommend solutions for the problems arising from the intersection of the opioid epidemic and related issues in workers’ compensation claims.” According to the Chair, “[o]pioid misuse and addiction are a major public health crisis in this state.” 

As of last June, a study by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) noted “noticeable decreases in the amount of opioids prescribed per workers’ compensation claim.” From 2012 – 2014, “the amount of opioids received by injured workers decreased.” In particular, there were “significant reductions in the range of 20 to 31 percent” in Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Texas. 

Additionally last March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for prescribing opioid medications for chronic pain “in response to an epidemic of prescription opioid overdose, which CDC says has been fueled by a quadrupling of sales of opioids since 1999.” 

Currently, the CDC’s recommendations for prescribing opioids for chronic pain outside of active cancer, palliative, and end-of-life care will likely follow these steps:

1.  Non-medication therapy / non-opioid will be preferred for chronic pain.

2.  Before starting opioid therapy for chronic pain, clinicians should establish treatment goals and consider how therapy will be discontinued if benefits do not outweigh risks.

3.  Before starting and periodically during opioid therapy, clinicians should discuss with patients known risks and realistic benefits of opioid therapy. 

Will Protects Children, Assets, and Helps Prepare for the Unexpected

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Occasionally I write about topics that I think are of use to readers of the firm’s blog. Today’s focus is on a blog post that lawyer Andrew Hoffman wrote about preparing for the unexpected by writing a will.

The blog post was written to promote a new start in 2015 by reflecting on the importance of estate planning. Although estate planning is not a topic that many folks enjoy discussing, I wanted to encourage you to read this blog post from Krotter Hoffman PC, LLO, a law firm in northeast Nebraska. One of the best quotes in the blog post is this one: “The people that can least afford a will (they think), are actually the same people that need it the most – parents of young children.”

Please make the time for a will, even if you don’t think you have much to pass on to loved ones. Because, as Mr. Hoffman goes on to explain, if a person doesn’t have a will, then a judge will decide who takes care of your minor children. And whatever assets you have will also go to those minor children the moment each turns 19, regardless of their ability to manage those funds, which may include life insurance proceeds.

This information is also helpful to workers’ compensation clients or anyone who has received a lump sum settlement to plan for what happens to that money if something happens to you. Please follow up with an attorney to write your will, be safe, and take care. 

Here’s a link to the original blog post:

http://www.krotterhoffman.com/#!A-New-Years-Resolution-Worth-Keeping/cutx/DC0CE14C-2B60-4E65-80F6-82C6560E60F5 titled: A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Set for April 26

Today’s post comes from guest author Emily Wray Stander, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Mark your calendars! As part of spring cleaning duties, I know people are sorting through the stuff in their homes, donating what they can, and figuring out how to recycle or dispose of what can’t be donated. As a mom of a child with food allergies who requires the use of epinephrine auto-injectors, I realize the challenge in making sure expired or no-longer-needed prescriptions are exposed of appropriately, because of the needles and strong medicine involved in this type of prescription. Many prescriptions should not be thrown away or, worse, flushed down the toilet to affect the water supply. Unused prescription drugs can also be dangerous to people for whom they are not prescribed, so it’s essential to dispose of these prescription drugs properly.

A number of the firm’s clients are injured workers who are often prescribed medication as a consequence of a work injury. But not all of these medications are used or needed, and some even expire, and then sit at home taking up space because folks don’t know what to do with them.

Please extend your spring cleaning to April 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This program is coordinated with local law enforcement through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control.

The Office of Diversion Control website gives a couple of search options to find a site near you that accepts “unused or expired medication for safe disposal.” Either search by zip code or by county/city and state via either of the two links on the site listed above.

The direct link to the search tends to “time out” and essentially sends you back to the site above, so it’s easiest to click through where it mentions “Locate collection sites” or “Click here for a collection site near you.” In addition, an 800 number, 1-800-882-9539, is available for people to ask questions about the program by speaking to customer-service representatives. But believe me when I say it’s easier to find this information on the website than it is to try to speak with someone. After a couple of easy searches on the website, I am pleased that there are what I consider a reasonable number of sites available in both Nebraska and Iowa.

Why should you and I care to make the effort of participating in a drug take-back day? This informative website from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains in general terms about disposing unused medicine, and it seems that dropping the drugs off at an approved site on April 26 is one of the easier options. In addition to the general good feeling people get from the act of reducing clutter, returning unused, unneeded medicines to a take-back event means we all don’t have to worry about the medicine getting into the water supply, which sometimes happens through flushing, or getting into the hands of a person who might abuse it, which can happen when meds are thrown away. See the site above for additional “Guidelines for Drug Disposal” if there’s not a drug take-back day available close by, so people can make sure medications are disposed of safely.

Thanks in advance for keeping us all safer by disposing of unneeded prescription medicine properly.

Paper or Plastic: A Reusable Workplace Hazard From The Grocery Store

Today’s post comes from guest author , from Jon L Gelman LLC.

Most people have been driven by guilt or cost into thinking about using a reusable shopping bag from the grocery store. A recent report indicates that sometimes the bags, because they are not sanitized by regular cleaning, become killer bacteria farms that may be transported into the workplace in a casual fashion.

Brought home from the grocery store, reusable and contaminated shopping bags then become storage and transport containers left baking in the car and carried everywhere for convenience from gyms, to libraries, and then into the workplace for lunch.

A recent report reflects that the reusable grocery bags often become contaminated by bacteria, since they are not cleaned properly nor regularly, and that deadly bacteria colonize in the bags resulting human illness and increased emergency room visits.

“Recent studies, however, suggest that reusable grocery bags harbor harmful bacteria, the most important of which is E. coli. If individuals fail to clean their reusable bags, these bacteria may lead to contamination of the food transported in the bags. Such contamination has the potential to lead to health problems and even death.”

The Problems with States Refusing Medicaid Expansion

Today’s post comes from guest author Brody Ockander, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Medicaid expansion was a large part of the recent health care reform law under the Affordable Care Act. For reasons that seem to be solely based on politics, some state governors have made public their decision to reject the Medicaid expansion, and as a result, federal funding of the expansion.

Besides the obvious problems this rejection would cause for millions of uninsured Americans and the health care providers who treat these uninsured people, this rejection could have a negative effect on workers, especially injured workers, of these states.

Fellow workers’ compensation lawyer, friend and colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin discussed the possible ramifications when an injured worker does not have access to health insurance. Mr. Domer discussed the following scenario that we see day in, and day out, in a previous blog post:

“The personal toll on the uninsured is devastating, especially for those dealing with work injuries.

As a worker’s compensation attorney, the following scenario plays out on a daily basis: A hard-working individual—who is lucky enough to have health insurance through the employer—is injured at work through no fault of his own. The injury is severe enough to not allow a return to work, or the employer simply terminates the employee (this insidious action happens far too often with far too little publicity). After termination, the injured worker is offered federal COBRA rights to continue paying the health insurance premiums at the full 100%, which of course, is near impossible when you are off work without income. Thus, the worker loses health insurance for himself and for his family.

On the flip side, the worker’s compensation insurance company is supposed to pay for reasonable medical treatment expenses related to the injury; however, the carrier usually hires an “independent” medical doctor to deny the worker’s compensation claim. The injured worker is then left out in the cold with an injury that requires medical treatment, but he has no ability to get that medical treatment without health insurance or workers’ compensation coverage. The worker then calls me and asks the emotionally-laden question: ‘What do I do?’”

Nebraska is one of the states that is “Leaning Toward Not Participating” in the Medicaid expansion, at least according to Gov. Dave Heineman’s public statements on the topic.

This can have a devastating effect on Nebraska workers who have suffered an injury.

As Mr. Domer further states:

“Access to health insurance alters this equation. If the worker had adequate access to health insurance, especially Medicaid, he could obtain the medical care that could allow a return to work, regardless of whether the worker’s compensation insurer accepted or denied the claim. Whether work-related or not, injured individuals should have the opportunity to get healthy in our country.”

So what can be done about this problem? Contact your government officials to encourage them to provide injured workers increased access by expanding Medicaid.