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New Ohio rule regarding opioids for workers with back injuries

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2018 | Workers' Compensation

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has targeted the opioid addiction epidemic by establishing a new rule regarding workers with back-related injuries. Ohio has seen many negative effects from the opioid overdose crisis, which experts attribute to prescription painkiller addictions that progress into heroin addictions. The BWC rule is similar to those in other states, which decline immediate payment for surgery, requiring injured workers to first try other remedies such as physical therapy and chiropractic care. However, the BWC takes it a step further by including an opioid warning in its surgical restriction.

The BWC rule requires workers with a back injury to try at least 60 days of alternative care before undergoing spinal fission surgery. Spinal fission surgery is performed approximately 600 times a year on injured Ohio workers suffering from certain conditions associated with severe chronic back pain. Those with some extremely severe back injuries may be exempt from the rule.

The president of the North American Spine Society says that this rule is too broad and will unduly burden those in need of spinal fission surgery. He expresses concern that the rule will impose more medical expenses and frustration to injured workers who need the surgery done as soon as possible.

However, according to the BWC chief medical officer, studies show that workers require more opioid medication after surgery than they did before surgery. Workers’ compensation spending on opioids reached $1.5 billion in 2015. The Chief Executive Officer of a chiropractic clinic chain notes that in patients who received spinal fission surgery, narcotic use increased over 40 percent and continued for over two years in most patients.

In addition to improved rehabilitation, anticipated benefits of the new rule include increased productivity and reduced workers’ compensation costs to the state. The chiropractic CEO believes that non-invasive treatments for chronic back pain will lead to overall better outcomes for both the injured workers and the Ohio BWC.

Source: The Detroit News, Ohio imposes rule on workers’ back surgery, opioids, Julie Carr Smith, Jan. 13, 2018