Will New Worker's Comp Rules Turn Injured Workers into Lifelong Drug Addicts?

Apr 08, 2013, 10:00 ET from Cliffside Malibu

MALIBU, Calif., April 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- California's worker's comp regulations have had the tragic unintended consequence of creating lifelong drug addicts.  Faced with more restrictive rules than before, workers compensation lawyers have been scrambling to figure out ways to increase the value of their clients' cases.  In order to receive the largest payouts possible, a cadre of unscrupulous lawyers and medical doctors have teamed up to exacerbate workers' reported medical conditions. When workers with back injuries see these lawyers, they are sent to doctors who overprescribe addictive pain medication, creating lifelong addiction in their clients that can then be termed a permanent disability, which receives the highest payouts from insurance carriers.  This practice not only bilks insurers, it destroys the lives of injured workers.

More and more, injured workers are filing worker's compensation for back pain along with psychological disorders. This is a new trend. In 1961, heart disease and stroke accounted for 25% of disability claims. Today, back pain and mental illness make up 53% of claims, according to the Social Security Administration. Workers in these cases may ask for full disability benefits based on permanent back injury and psychological distress caused by the injury. The disability caused by the back injury frequently is exacerbated when the injured worker develops a dependency upon the pain medication prescribed to treat the back injury.  With treatment, however, in most cases these issues can be addressed so that no permanent disability will exist.

"Upon receiving treatment," says Dr. Damon Raskin, a medical doctor and addiction specialist with the Cliffside Malibu treatment center, "most cases of back pain can be resolved and addiction can be completely treated. There is no reason at all that addiction should ever be a permanently disabling factor."

Uncertainty about the impact of new worker's comp rules pervades the market, according to a recent article in the Insurance Journal. "Worst case scenario is a return to a period between the 1990s and early 2000s, when many workers' comp carriers were folding, or they stopped writing insurance in California." According to the Governor's office, action had to be taken to curtail skyrocketing insurance costs, which rose from $14.8 billion to $19 billion between 2010 and 2012, "... with an estimated 12.6% increase projected for the near future." A significant factor in the increased cost of claims is the largely unreported link between treatment of industrial injuries and drug addiction caused by that treatment.

California's SB899 was passed to cut down on billions of dollars in fraud, but the recently passed SB 863, which went into effect in January, is designed to provide more money to injured workers, many of whom are hoping to move onto the lists of those who are permanently disabled. "In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. ... Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government," reports National Public Radio's Chana Joffe-Walt.

About Cliffside Malibu:

Cliffside Malibu offers top-notch care in a private setting with a multitude of treatment options focusing on whole health. Cliffside boasts a record of helping people overcome their addictions and get back to work. For information about Cliffside Malibu's effective treatments and intervention services, please visit http://www.cliffsidemalibu.com or call 1-800-501-1988, 24 hours a day.

SOURCE Cliffside Malibu