Medical Marijuana and the Workers Compensation Conundrum – Part 1

Medical Marijuana and the Workers Compensation Conundrum – Part 1

Because the U.S. Federal Government has dug-in its feet, leaving marijuana as an illegal, Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, state governments have been left to individually pave their own legalization paths, leaving a frustrated public in the wake. Employers, employees, doctors, workers comp case managers, and more feel frustratingly in-the-dark as ever-diversified, continually evolving legislation continues to change the landscape. This is the first post of our two part series of spotlighting medical marijuana in the marketplace.

What We Do Know About Medical Marijuana

Though state laws vary widely on the amount of legal possession and personal cultivation for medical use, to-date 29 states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use, including 8 states who’ve legalized its use recreationally. For medicinal purposes, marijuana has been scientifically confirmed effective for pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea control, and reducing ocular pressure. It is arguably cheaper and less addictive than opioids, however both research and quality control are lacking. For injured workers and those in the workers’ comp industry, its most-likely application is pain relief, however it’s typically not be the first drug in the treatment lineup for prescribing physicians.

What’s Murky About Medical Marijuana and Workers’ Compensation

Marijuana dispensing differs from run-of-the-mill pharmaceuticals, with product obtained from dispensaries or home growth, not pharmacies, leading to a gap in patient information on potentially dangerous drug interactions. Patient protections also remain muddy. Still illegal under federal law, stateside court rulings are chaotic. Fifteen states offer little to no employee protection, while 11 states explicitly provide protections from retaliatory actions to limits on drug testing from employers. Furthermore, all states with medical marijuana have pending legislation and litigation that could have a broad impact on the workplace, creating a landscape reminiscent of the Wild West.

Who’s Paying For Medical Marijuana Prescriptions?

Who knows? Medical marijuana’s Schedule I status prohibits its inclusion in the National Drug Code, leaving Medicaid and Medicare patients on the sidelines. This lack of regulation also equates to a dearth of coding, complicating processing for pharmacy benefits managers. And state-by-state case law for prescription coverage from employer-sponsored coverage to workers’ comp, like employee protection legislation, also varies widely.

Who’s Got a Headache?

Employers. Though there is federal protection backing drug-free workplace policies, including “zero-tolerance” for specific jobs such as heavy equipment operators, pilots, and surgeons, ever-changing legislation makes it difficult for employers to figure out which end is up. In the meantime, knowledge of state-specific legislation remains key to compliance, with an attitude of managing medical marijuana like any other powerful legal prescription drug that could impair mental capacity a logical choice: Accommodate the needs of injured workers – but uphold a safe work environment, as always. ANS Solutions Medical Cost Containment Programs are the only end to end pharmaceutical cost containment programs in the industry that genuinely put the patient first, while minimizing the cost of settlement in large loss workers’ comp claims.

 

ASansAbout the Author:  Anthony Sambucini is a founding principal and the Chief Executive Officer of ANS Solutions. Anthony specializes in bridging the goals of clinical innovation and business strategy that have helped propel ANS Solutions into a national leader in Pharmacotherapy Review Services for workers’ comp insurers. As a consultant to insurance carriers and attorneys, Anthony customizes services based on the particular needs of the client and oversees all activities related to business development and company operations. For more information about ANS Solutions visit http://ans-solutions.com/.

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/medical-marijuana-and-the-workers-compensation-conundrum-part-1/

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Are Primary Care Physicians Leaving Opioid Deaths to Chance?

A recently released study from the Journal of Addiction Medicine has uncovered an alarming trend. Patients with opioid addiction, also referred to as opioid use disorder (OUD), experience an alarmingly high death rate – one 10 times higher than those not suffering opioid addiction. Not surprisingly, the study has raised some tough questions about the existing treatment infrastructure, and the system’s failure to identify and aid such at-risk individuals.

The Sobering Stats

Using electronic health records from a major university healthcare system from more than 2,500 patients ranging in age from 18 to 64, all identified as having an OUD, 465 deaths were observed during the eight-year period studied, 2006-2014. Drug overdose and disorder was the leading cause of death (19.8%), with deceased patients commonly experiencing other substance abuse disorders (tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, cocaine). Other causes included cardiovascular disease (17.4%), cancer (16.8%) and infectious disease (13.5%, of which 12% had hepatitis C). Alcohol abuse and hepatitis C were identified as primary markers. Compared to the general population, the deceased were more likely to be male (41.7% vs 31.6%), uninsured (87.1% vs 51.3%), and older at the time of initial OUD diagnosis (48.4 vs 39.8 years).

Unintended Effects

Though health care reforms (Federal Mental Health Parity, Addiction Equity Act, and the Affordable Care Act) were intended to lead to an expansion of services for substance abuse disorders in primary care, shifting them from previously isolated treatment centers, there appears to be a significant portion of the population slipping through the cracks. This suggests multiple issues within the current healthcare delivery system in identifying and addressing patients battling addiction:

  • Ignorance of the true risks of opioid abuse and corresponding treatments.
  • A lack of timely and sufficient screening for identifying patients with addiction.
  • Identification of addiction issues too late to provide appropriate/effective interventions.
  • A lack of addiction specialists on-site, as well a as a lack of outside resources for treatment.

The healthcare industry must find a better way to identify and treat patients suffering substance abuse disorders – before they pay the ultimate price. Clinicians in the primary healthcare setting could be a driving force – provided they receive proper training and assistance. For the worker, an effective pharmacotherapy review program ensures that recommended prescription treatment plans are necessary and appropriate and can help eliminate the potential for addiction.

This was originally posted on http://ans-solutions.com/are-primary-care-physicians-leaving-opioid-deaths-to-chance/

How Technology Is Shaping The Workers’ Compensation Industry

The technology now used within today’s workers’ comp industry is remarkable compared to what was available just a few decades prior. A dominant component of advocacy, claims, and treatment, technology is helping employers and insurers work the bugs out of the process, producing amazing results and the promise of even more unbelievable advancements on the horizon…

How is Technology Reshaping the Workers Compensation Industry?

  • Paper Falls by the Wayside
    • NOW: Endless forms and lost paperwork are no longer, replaced by automated forms, electronic signatures and correspondence that is both faster and easily trackable.
    • LATER: Lengthy, written legalese explanations will be replaced by clearer video demonstrations. Avatars, virtual assistants, and chat will become more commonplace.
  • “Smart” Tech Takes Over
    • NOW: Smartphones and mobile devices empower injured workers, offering personal claims reporting, teledoctor consultations and referrals, status and payment checks, virtual correspondence examiners/case managers, and easy access to information via chat/messaging. This faster reporting and assessment speeds treatment, lowering pain severity and costs, and boosting network penetration.
    • LATER: Wearable Tech will become increasingly common in the workplace, from high-tech safety vests and helmets to watches that identify fatigue, repetitive motions, and even alert employees of dangerous situations. For the injured, mobile self-service tools will encourage a more active role in recovery and return-to-work, and the introduction of digital wallets will offer more convenient access to prescriptions.
  • Automation Moves Things Along
    • NOW: Triggered by specific claims events, automated correspondence speeds the process with real-time text/email notifications, boosting productivity and claimant satisfaction.
    • LATER: Tech driven by “empathetic” artificial intelligence will aid claimants, further reducing workloads.
  • Video Trumps Phone Communication
    • NOW: Employers, claims professionals, nurses, and attorneys can more easily communicate remotely and interactively.
    • LATER: The transition to a more personal video telepresence will boost efficiency and improve interactions, making them more personable.
  • Analytics Provide Greater Insight
    • NOW: Predictive analysis through text mining is granting ever-faster access to previously unknown variables, identifying cost triggers (opioid use, comorbidities), and unearthing previously unidentified information.
    • LATER: Prescriptive analytics will come into play, implementing new tech that prescribes successful and actionable intervention techniques.

Exciting Times, Amazing Opportunities
The industry and employers are capitalizing on this wave of technological change. When was the last time you initiated change in your workers’ compensation medical cost containment strategy? ANS Solutions’ streamlined Pharmacotherapy Review program has a proven track record for improving efficiency, reducing costs by over 25% with a success ratio of 94%, yielding a guaranteed return-on-investment of 20-to-1 through our Guarantee Program. Centered around maximizing treatment outcomes for injured workers, our unique, multi-faceted approach delivers cost-effective, proven treatment solutions that make a lasting, positive impact on the overall employee workers’ comp experience. Blaze a new trail in this innovative era. Contact http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/how-technology-is-shaping-the-workers-compensation-industry/

The ER and Opioids

A common thread has been found in opioid addiction, winding its way from the ER and into homes across the nation. Beginning as a single prescription for a minor issue or unexpected injury, ER physicians are inadvertently rolling the dice and chancing long-term addiction in their quest to simply relieve pain, when there could be better alternatives.

How Commonly are Opioids Tossed-Out in the ER?

Medical researchers studied hundreds of thousands of Medicare-paid ER admissions nationwide, and uncovered a surprising trend in standard approaches to treating pain. Within the same facility, patients discharged with opioid scripts ranged from 7% on the miserly end, to 24% with heavy-handed prescribers. A wide difference in pain management, with similarly disparate results: Patients, who by the luck of the draw were seen by heavy-handed prescribers, were found 30% more likely to become long-term users.

Do Prescription Strength & Amount Play a Role?

A broad variation was also seen in strength and amount, with some physicians prescribing half the dose as others, and showing similar results: A 30% greater chance of long-term use with high-dosages, versus cautious prescription.

Who Was More Likely to Return to the Hospital?

No evidence was found of patients of low-prescribing physicians returning for handout. High prescribers, on the other hand, saw an increase in returning patients suffering opioid-related complications ranging from falls and broken bones to overdoses.

Why the Seemingly Haphazard Prescription?

Because pain treatment is largely improvisational, and often a result of learning by example during observational years, the major issue appears to be lack of protocol and best practices. Where these do not exist, physician adherence to guidelines is poor. Sadly, the reliance on these informal treatment procedures puts public health at risk.

How Can We Empower Physicians and Protect Patients in Need of Relief?

In order to address this epidemic and its deleterious health and financial effects, a collaborative approach is essential, however the doctor’s role is pivotal to keeping excessive prescribing in-check while still managing the pain of those most in need. Broad spectrum and individualized strategies, those that are scientifically-backed and with a reputation for efficacy, are essential to improving patient outcomes without opioids. Even more pivotal, however, are honest, face-to-face discussions between healthcare providers and the industry, be it the FDA or insurance regime, imparting such wisdom to physicians to the benefit of the patient. Post-treatment observation and evaluation must be ongoing, to ensure successful, appropriate treatment and full recovery. And this proven, team-based approach exists with ANS Solutions Pharmacotherapy Review. Won’t you follow the path to a brighter future? Contact http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/the-er-and-opioids/

The Position of Workers Compensation in 2017

With the election of a new president who is ushering in a new era for the government, the trickle-down effect to the workers’ compensation industry just might sweep you off your feet. Prepare yourself with the industry knowledge you need, and avoid being overtaken by the tsunami…

The 2017 Workers’ Compensation Industry Issues to Watch:

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA)
    Like a rogue wave, changes to the ACA may pop-up with little notice. These changes will influence the industry, including claims frequency, claims shifting, and cost shifting if/when private insurance is lost by injured workers, potentially shifting the industry back into the role of “medical insurance for the uninsured.” Preparing for engagement and rapid response to proposed legislation will remain integral as ACA changes are ironed-out in the coming year.
  • Nationwide Physician Shortages
    America is projected to be short an estimated 12,000 to 31,000 primary care physicians by 2025, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Surgeons are also expected to be in short supply. Though effects will vary based on geographic location, coupled with population growth, the aging Baby Boom population, Affordable Care Act instability, and the nationwide opioid crisis, this single phenomena could converge in a myriad of issues within the workers comp industry.
  • Changes to the Workforce
    As the economic current in the U.S. changes, the manufacturing industry may re-emerge, detracting from what is currently a service-based economy. The mobile workforce will also continue to evolve, such as remote and telecommuting positions. Workforce changes aren’t simply labor-related, however, the aging American workforce across the country will also play a large role.
  • Prescription Drug Abuse
    The overuse and abuse of prescriptions drugs, particularly opioids, continues to be a turbulent issue in the industry, driving workers’ comp costs and leaving opposing forces facing-off at a line in the sand. As federal and state lawmakers continue to bandage this issue across the medical industry, claims management teams and attorneys will need to move forward in addressing this issue in claims, monitoring prescriptions, recommending “drug contracts,” and better engaging with physicians regarding the risks of abuse, where permitted. On the flipside of the drug abuse coin, the consequences of injured workers medical marijuana scripts influencing on-the-job risks will continue to be a sticky wicket.
  • Profit & Loss Scenarios
    Though the workers’ comp industry saw their first underwriting profits in 2013, the trend is not expected to continue. Falling rates and increasing exposures, particularly over the long term, point to a negative outlook overall, with combined ratios of 100% projected for the coming year. Medical providers still continue to increase reimbursement rates to offset costs from lackluster Medicare and Medicaid payments, and medical and pharmaceutical advancements increase the risk of loss. Maintaining proper reserves, conducting timely settlement reviews, and utilizing appropriate resources over the course of the year will be key.

Make Progress in Managing Risks & Costs
No matter how fast the tide rushes in, ground yourself in facing this year’s obstacles with positive change, putting yourself in the best position to avoid being washed out in the chaos. With the transparent, mutually beneficial workers compensation cost containment services of ANS Solutions and our medical cost containment strategies, you can support both financial savings and positive outcomes, with a program that actively engages workers compensation patients with a positive experience, gaining unmatched results via true, face-to-face interactions between all involved parties for a complete team approach to care. Ride the wave of the future, contact http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

Sources:

http://www.wci360.com/news/article/how-to-fix-the-primary-care-physician-shortage

http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-physician-relationships/15-things-to-know-about-the-physician-shortage.html

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/the-position-of-workers-compensation-in-2017/

Naloxone (Narcan): What Workers Comp Payers Need to Know

Though it has been on the market since 1971, this year is expected to be a landmark year in Naloxone (Narcan) sales nationwide, and this trend is expected to continue due not only to the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation, but the fact that opioids still remain the most frequently prescribed category of medication used in workers’ comp pain management.

Preventing Death from Opioid Overdose

In its hallmark form, Naloxone was approved for injection by the FDA in 1971. An opioid agonist, it was used in hospital and emergency settings to temporarily reverse the dangerous effects of overdose, including sedation, low blood pressure, and potentially fatal respiratory depression. However new outpatient options have recently entered the market, putting this potentially life-saving drug in the hands of the general public.

  • Evzio (2014)
    The first FDA-approved naloxone auto-injector available in the U.S., this small, portable device, similar in nature to an Epi-pen, can be used by patients or family members in the event of overdose. (Holds a significantly higher average wholesale price than Narcan and traditional injectables.)
  • Narcan (2016)
    A single-dose, ready-to-use nasal spray that requires the patient to be lying on their back for proper administration.

Not a Magic Bullet
Reversing the effects of opioids at the receptor site and blocking further binding, naloxone takes effect in 3 minutes, wearing off in about 30-to-90 minutes depending on the opioid taken. Though it reverses the clinical and toxic effects of overdose, it only displaces opioids for a short time.

Access Expanding
Despite its short-term effects, legislative and regulatory reforms are making naloxone increasingly available nationwide as states struggle to combat the opioid epidemic. Anesthesiologists, PMR physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pain management specialists are writing the majority of prescriptions for patients undergoing opioid treatment therapies. Civil liability protection has been expanded for First Responders employing its use. Some states have even made naloxone available for sale as an over-the-counter medication.

Turn the Tide
Due to opioid over-prescription and abuse in our country, Naloxone is unfortunately a necessary medication. However, at ANS Solutions, we believe the best way to prevent opioid overdose is by circumnavigating its use with the patient-doctor education and equally effective, scientifically-proven alternative medical treatments that protect the outcome of injured workers, and reduce unnecessary opioid treatments and associated costs. With our medical cost containment strategies, safe, efficacious cost-effective care is possible. Discover more at http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

Sources: http://helioscomp.com/docs/default-source/continuing-education-2016/072816-optum-naloxone-use-in-wc-ce_final.pdf 

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/naloxone-narcan-what-workers-comp-payers-need-to-know/

Landmark Reforms Hoped to Aid New York in the Fight against Opioid Addiction

It is hoped to be a happier new year for Empire State residents suffering from opioid abuse. In a landmark legislative package that took effect January 1st of this year, health insurance plans will now be required to cover treatment services to New Yorkers suffering opioid addiction. In a state plagued by the effects of opioids and heroin, whose overdose death rates are far outpacing nearly every state in the union, legislators are hopeful those grappling with the effects of these drugs can finally gain access to the help they need in overcoming addiction.

The Plan to Expand Access to Opioid Addiction Care

Signed into law by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the reforms are expected to remove burdensome treatment access barriers, help expand prevention strategies from within communities, and limit opioid over-prescriptions statewide. What is the governor’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force plan to stamp out abuse?

  • Insurance-Related Protections
    • Insurance pre-authorization no longer required for immediate access to inpatient care and (emergency) drug treatment medications when needed.
    • Utilization review (insurance) cannot become involved until after 14 days of uninterrupted treatment.
    • Insurers must use objective, state-approved criteria when making coverage determinations.
    • Opioid-reversal medication coverage is mandated.
    • Requirements apply to small, large group, and individual plans regulated by the DFS.
  • Addiction Treatment Services Enhancements
    • Individuals incapacitated by drugs can now receive 72, not 48 hours of emergency treatment and evaluation.
    • Hospitals are now required to provide follow-up service at discharge, connecting at-risk patients with nearby treatment options for continuous care.
    • Trained professionals no longer risk licensure when administering naloxone in emergencies.
    • Wraparound services (legal, support, transportation, childcare) have been expanded to support long-term recovery.
  • Community Prevention Strategies
    • Prescription limits reduced from 30 to 7 day supply maximum (with exceptions).
    • Required continuing education for all physicians/prescribers on addiction/pain management.
    • Pharmacists must provide materials on addiction risks and nearby treatment services.
    • Opioid overdoses and overdose medication use must be reported quarterly.

Ensuring Appropriate Treatment Options For Opioid Addiction 

Much like the measures put forth by the state of New York, ANS Solutions’ Pharmacotherapy Review Program strives to uphold appropriate treatment options for patients, offering protection against opioid dangers with a three-stage approach to injury recovery that far-surpasses drug utilization review. Comprehensive and effective, it both protects against unnecessary expenses and safeguards patient treatment outcomes. Utilizing personal, face-to-face communication and integrative case-management methods, over-prescription of dangerous narcotics and potentially deadly drug-to-drug interactions commonly experienced with multiple prescribers can be prevented, success achieved with evidence-based treatment protocols and cemented by written proposal to achieve maximum results.

Don’t stand on the sidelines of the epidemic. Take part in the solution. Reinvent the way you handle claims with the help of ANS Solutions today.

Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/landmark-reforms-hoped-to-aid-new-york-in-the-fight-against-opioid-addiction/