Looking Back at 2019 Workers' Compensation Legislative Trends

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With 2019 in the rearview and 2020 now upon us, now is a perfect time to reflect on last year’s top legislative trends in the world of workers’ compensation. With the closing of one chapter, we also take a glance into 2020 to see what legislative changes could be on the horizon.

Among the many changes and adoptions that 2019 brought, the three workers’ compensation legislative trends below made the most impact on injured workers and their healthcare providers and were seen in many states across the country.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

This year, over 40 bills were passed in states across the country that either enabled the implementation of a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) or required a change to a state’s current prescribing process to include the consultation of a PDMP.

Many states recognized how PDMPs can significantly reduce opioid-related deaths and acted in the form of legislation to ensure their successful creation and implementation. At the end of 2019, all states expect Missouri have an active PDMP and some states now have laws in place requiring providers to consult the state’s specific program before prescribing.

Expanded Coverage for First Responders

2019 was a monumental and extremely successful year for first responder workers’ compensation coverage.  Throughout the entire year, bills were introduced in states from Connecticut to Montana aiming to expand workers’ compensation coverage for additional work-related dangers, such as cancer presumption and PTSD.

Beginning in 2020, many first responders will now be able to file a workers’ compensation claim for a traumatic event or for being exposed to cancer causing substances. In 2019, elected officials, and more importantly employers, recognized the many dangers and hazards that first responders encounter daily and took action to ensure that these individuals receive the benefits they deserve.

Mandatory Electronic Prescribing

The use of electronic prescribing for controlled substances gained even more recognition and popularity this year. A staggering 8 states have either formally implemented an electronic prescribing mandate in 2019 or are considering implementing one in 2020.

E-Prescribing allows for greater control and safety for individuals who are prescribed controlled substances. With the opioid epidemic in America still one of the countries greatest causes of concern, states are realizing that implementing mandatory E-Prescribing and doing away with paper and faxed prescriptions allows both providers and pharmacists more control and better monitoring of prescriptions.

What to Expect in 2020

While we cannot predict the future, there have been some emerging trends happening across the country that have the potential to become hot topics in 2020.

State-Specific Drug Formulary

State-specific formularies, such as the New York workers' compensation drug formulary, sparked a major change for New York providers, while states like Indiana and Kentucky altered their drug formulary in 2019.

While it’s still a bit too early in the year to foresee further drug formulary implementations, New York has triggered other states interests to change their own formularies. Already, Illinois, Georgia, and Louisiana have begun considering drug formulary changes that they plan to implement in 2020.

Medical Marijuana as an Alternative to Opioids

Although Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance federally, some states are exploring the idea of marijuana’s medical applications. With the increased acceptance of medical marijuana as a pain management treatment and opioid alternative, it’s no surprise that some states are actively pursuing the acceptance of medical marijuana as a treatment option for injured workers.

This year, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in favor of an injured worker seeking medical reimbursement for the use of marijuana to help treat pain from a work injury. With a strong focus on curbing the nation’s opioid epidemic, medical marijuana will certainly be a trend to watch in 2020.

2019 was an impactful year for injured workers and the workers’ compensation industry. With many states gearing up for the 2020 legislative session, additional changes are sure to happen.

Legislative changes can come fast, so be sure to stay up to date on all things workers’ compensation by reading and subscribing to our weekly State of the States blog.  

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