PA Chamber: Wolf Administration Workers’ Comp Opioid Guidelines Inadequate

The PA Chamber issued a response last week to new guidelines unveiled by the Wolf administration regarding how opioids are prescribed in workers’ compensation cases.  The guidelines were issued as part of an Executive Order the governor signed in lieu of a far more effective prescription drug formulary bill.

In a news release, Gov. Tom Wolf said the guidelines include methods to help promote “safe, quality health care; ensure patient pain relief,” and reduce addiction to opioids; adding that the guidelines were written to help “ensure that health care providers who treat patients with work-related injuries have the guidance they need.”  However, the PA Chamber has pushed back on the notion that these guidelines are somehow a legitimate substitution for S.B. 936, legislation which would have established a prescription drug formulary for workers’ compensation.  Formularies are standard across healthcare and states that have implemented them within their workers’ comp systems have seen reductions in prescription drug abuse and addiction among injured workers.  Senate Bill 936 was a top priority for the PA Chamber, which organized a broad coalition of support, including more than 70 local chambers of commerce, health care and employer organizations to urge lawmakers to support the bill and help to mitigate the state’s prescription drug and opioid addiction crisis as it relates to injured workers.  While the legislation passed the General Assembly, it was vetoed by the Governor.

“The governor announced his intent to issue these guidelines the day before he vetoed Senate Bill 936 and at the time we expressed our concern that an executive order to issue guidelines is simply not an adequate substitution for legislation, as they are inherently temporary solutions that do not carry the full force of law and lack critical oversight and accountability,” PA Chamber President Gene Barr said in last week’s statement.

“Fighting the opioid epidemic has been a top priority for this administration, which clearly recognizes the magnitude of this crisis. Surely we can all agree that the stakes are too high for half-measures and symbolic gestures. We look forward to continuing to work with the Wolf administration and the Legislature on this issue.”