The insurance companies that make billions of dollars in payments to employees critical injured in work-related accidents are used to the high costs of dealing with major work injuries but recently a new issue is giving them cause for concern.
Insurance companies are contending with the quickly increasing costs for workers suffering more routine injuries due to the high costs of painkillers. They also face higher costs due to the tendency of workers being treated with powerful pain medications as it delays an injured worker return to work.
It is estimated that an annual $1.4 billion is paid out towards narcotic pain medications. Research finds that when powerful pain pills are used too soon in an injured workers treatment or for too long a period of time, related disability payments and medical expenses rise and employees take much longer to return to their jobs.
For instance, it was found that workers with back injuries who were treated with opioid medications were kept out of work three times longer than those who had similar injuries but did not take the higher doses of pain medications. When work injuries are coupled with disability payments, the cost of the injury is nine times higher when narcotics are used in treatment. There is also growing concern due to the large amount of injuries being treated with Percocet and OxyContin when there is no medical evidence these drugs provide long-term benefits.
Despite the lack of proof strong pain meds help with routine work injuries, their presence in workplace injuries jumped up 63% between the years of 2001 and 2008 according to research conducted by the insurance industry.