An unprecedented Workers' Compensation reform bill was signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett that will impact the availability of needed medications to injured workers throughout Pennsylvania. House Bill 1846, which is now Act 184, will now limit doctors from dispensing medications directly to patients.
The new law will impose a 30-day limit on a doctors ability to directly dispense drugs to an injured worker. This limit will begin with the first visit by the injured worker to that specific health care provider. The law also imposes a seven-day limit on doctors dispensing Schedule II and III drugs with a conditional 15-day extension if the injured worker requires surgery. Schedule II drugs include medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine; Schedule III medications includes testosterone. The law also completely bans doctors from dispensing over-the-counter medications and places a cap on the cost of drugs dispensed.
While perhaps noble in intent, this new law will undoubtedly create unneeded additional stress to the injured work, prevent or delay needed medication to claimants, lead to unnecessary out of pocket expense, and foster nefarious actions on the part of insurance adjusters. Many pharmacies, although not required (and in contradiction to the Workers' Compensation Act) refuse to fill needed prescriptions unless and until they are pre-approved by an insurance adjuster, or "set up in their system" as approved.. As most claimants, and claimant attorneys know, actually getting an insurance adjuster to answer a call -- any call -- can be a challenging task. Now, unfortunately, these unanswered calls will result in an inability to get needed medication.
Although the difficulty in reaching an adjuster is not a new phenomena, it now will have more significant consequences. Given the increased frequency in which my clients have been refused medication at local brick and mortar pharmacies, I have started recommending the online services such as Injured Workers Pharmacy and Alliance Meds. These online services will fill a prescription and ship the needed medication directly to the injured worker, thereby ensuring that my clients will not go without needed medications as they rehabilitate from their work injuries.