Most employees in South Carolina are entitled to workers’ compensation insurance coverage, and the benefits provided thereunder can help pay medical bills and prescription drug costs for injured workers. A recent report by the National Safety Council shows that opioid painkillers make up more than 25 percent of workers’ compensation prescription drug costs. Opioid drugs can be addictive, and that can cause problems for both the users and their employers.
According to the NSC report, between 2009 and 2015 there were at least 15 cases of employers being sued because opioids were prescribed as treatment for workplace injuries. The report states that courts have ruled that workers are entitled to compensation in many cases when opioid prescriptions have led to addiction or death.
The report also contains recommendations for employers to reduce risk and the potential for high costs when painkillers are requested by a work accident victim. Among these recommendations are opioid prescribing guidelines, exercising caution when using methadone, and screening injured workers for depression, other mental health conditions and any history of substance abuse. The NSC also suggests appointing a pharmacy benefit manager to manage all pharmaceutical purchases, requiring prescription drug monitoring programs for providers, and educating workers about opioids and their possible hazards.
Workers’ compensation benefits are designed to assist those who have been injured in a workplace accident or who have contracted an occupational disease, and in addition to the provision of medical care and treatment, the benefits can also include a percentage of wages lost during the recovery period. Many workers obtain the assistance of legal counsel when preparing and filing the required claim.