HB592, Rep. Talbot’s closed pharmacy formulary bill, which would make the Work Loss Data Institute’s “Official Disability Guidelines” the law of the land, passed the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee on May 11th, 8 to 5, with four members absent.
Three hours of debate saw both sides make impassioned arguments, with proponents saying that the formulary is necessary to keep injured workers from becoming addicted to opioids and opponents arguing that the formulary (and ODG in particular) is only cost-motivated and that it would add another layer to the existing workers’ comp bureaucracy already in place under the Medical Treatment Guidelines.
Louisiana Comp Blog reached out to local stakeholders and the Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration (OWCA) for reaction to the vote. The measure is scheduled for debate on the House Floor on Thursday, May 18th.
Sheral Kellar, Esq. | Director, OWCA, Chair, WCAC:
“I provided factual information to the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee about HB592. I did not testify for or against the legislation. If adopted, ODG Appendix A [the formulary] will apply solely to the approximate 20,000 workers injured annually in Louisiana. It will regulate all prescriptions, not just opioids, for these 20,000 individuals. As stated by the proponents of HB592, it will cut costs for payors. For injured workers, who experience pain and suffering as a result of their workplace injuries, state administration of a prescription formulary may result in additional delays, when an injured worker is most in need of care.”
Wayne Fontana, Esq. | Roedel Parsons:
“Opioid addiction is a national crisis, and with Louisiana near the top of the list of high risk opioid use in workers’ comp, the crisis in Louisiana is even bigger. HB 592 presents a proven, effective tool to speed the approval process for the safest and most effective drugs for injured workers. Preventing addiction from the outset will return employees to the workforce more quickly and will prevent destroyed lives and destroyed families. The bill will assist doctors in prescribing the best and most effective medicine and will speed up approval in many cases. Employees will still be able to receive their medicine, but it will be better medicine, more effective medicine, and less addictive medicine.”
Charles Davoli, Esq. | Davoli & Krumholt, Co-Chair, WCAC:
“Much like the partisan political gridlock in Washington D.C., Louisiana employers, (especially self-insured employer groups and workers’ comp insurers) have been bamboozled by the cost-saving rhetoric and self-serving misrepresentations of the alleged success of the Texas-based ODG closed pharmacy formulary. Yesterday’s vote in a non-labor friendly House Committee hearing came down to a split along both racial and party lines, with self-insured employers and a white Republican majority prevailing.
Despite lengthy and comprehensive opposition from both medical provider and injured worker/labor representatives, as well as an unfavorable vote of the Governor’s Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council, the Committee was obviously already predisposed to vote their political bias despite the rationality of the opposition. Measures already taken by the Governor, in part through his instigation of a recent study and special report of an Opioid Abuse Commission, and other legislative measures already progressing in the current session, are a more rational, reasonable, and humane approach to the problem.”
Jennifer Barber Valois, Esq. | The Barber Law Firm, Plaintiff, Barber v. LWC :
“I’m quite sure every member who voted in favor of this bill has received or will receive campaign contributions from the corporation that will directly profit from the bill. I honestly can’t think of any other single logical reason those members would’ve had to vote for layering a discredited questionably scientific product on top of an enjoined statute that lacks basic constitutional protections.”
Jeffrey Napolitano, Esq. | Juge Napolitano:
“Despite certain strides that have been taken to better control this problem, opioid addiction and abuse remains a large problem in Louisiana. Even considering the reduction in narcotics, Louisiana remains at the top of the list of states in prescriptions per capita. While some doctors in Louisiana have reduced the number of opioid prescriptions offered to their patients, we have not seen enough of a change in culture among the doctors treating the majority of workers’ compensation patients. All too often their method of treatment is to start narcotics and cease activity. They signal to their patients that it is not normal to feel any pain. Pain must be masked with painkillers, and any activity that may produce symptoms should be avoided.
Other states exercise control over this problem by managing the panel of doctors permitted to treat workers’ compensation patients. Since employers in Louisiana have no control over the selection of doctors, it is essential that the doctors who elect to treat these patients agree to guidelines and formularies that promote a healthy recuperation and return to work, and not be free to dispense medicine that accomplishes the exact opposite goal.”