Patricia L. Harman, Editor-in-Chief
Across the country, the use of opioids accounted for 63% of the 52,000 drug overdoses in 2015. Medications that fall into the opioid category include fentanyl, codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone,
which are usually prescribed for acute or severe pain due to illness, surgery or
accidents. As physicians became more comfortable with prescribing them for
a myriad of ailments involving “pain,” they failed to see the effect of their treatments until it was too late.
The American Society of Addictive Medicine says that of the 20 million Americans in 2015 who suffered a substance abuse issue, two million were attributed to
prescription pain relievers and almost 600,000 involved the use of heroin.
Finding alternative treatments is a priority for physicians and workers’ comp
insurers, and there are a number of options available including acupuncture,
exercise, non-opioid medications, massage therapy, physical therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. States are also passing legislation that limits initial
opioid prescriptions to seven days, to reduce the incidence of addiction. Kevin
Bingham and a team from Deloitte Consulting examine some of the other treatment options available to physicians that do not require the use of opioids. See
their article on p. 18.
A related issue involves the use of medical and recreational marijuana. Currently legalized in 29 states, that number is expected to increase over the next
12 months. While the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule
1 drug, meaning it is not currently accepted for medical use, it is possible that
insurers are unknowingly receiving and paying invoices for it when they are
bundled with other charges or buried within unclassified drug codes. Michelle
Hibbert-Iacobacci provides an update on what to look for when reviewing invoices coded for medical marijuana and what questions to ask in order to determine what is actually being billed. Her article can be found on p. 25.
There are no easy fixes for either of these issues, and insurers must continue
to watch what transpires at the state and federal levels to protect themselves
and their policyholders.
On a more positive note, our Iconoclast, Ken Brownlee, celebrates 50 years
in the claims and risk management business this year. He has been sharing his
insights and expertise with our readers for almost as long and we appreciate his
willingness to educate generations of claims professionals through Claims and
PropertyCasualty360.com. We look forward to his instruction for years to come.