MSP Compliance Blog

Expert summary, analysis and recommendations on issues impacting Medicare Secondary Payer compliance.

Recent Study Links Opioid Use to Escalation in Overall Claim Cost

Posted on September 23, 2012 by Rita Wilson

Opioid cause of escalation in claim cost
Opioid cause of escalation in claim cost
The over-prescribing of opioids and subsequent problems of addiction, overdose and even death is a public health crisis that has dramatically impacted workers’ compensation. A startling 55 to 85 percent of injured workers receive narcotics for chronic pain.

A recent study by Accident Fund Holdings and Johns Hopkins University examined the interrelationship between the utilization of short- and long-acting opioid medications and the likelihood of claim cost escalating to a catastrophic level (> $100,000). Analyzing 12,000 workers’ compensation claims in Michigan during a four-year period, the study focused on whether the presence of opioids alone accounted for the cost increase or whether costs increased because opioids were associated with known cost-drivers, such as legal involvement and injury severity.

Controlling for factors of sex, age, time lost from work, number of distinct ICD-9 codes per claims and legal involvement, results showed that opioid use – particularly of long-acting (LA) opioids – was an independent predictor of catastrophic claims costs.  Key findings:

  • The presence of LA opioids makes claims almost 3.9 times more likely to have a final cost of >$100,000 than a claim without any prescriptions.
  • Claims with only short acting (SA) opioids were 1.76 times more likely to have an ultimate claims cost of >$100,000.
  • Claims with non-opioid prescriptions showed no significant risk of exceeding $100,000 int total claim cost.

When assessing the price of opioid medication as it related to total medical and overall claim cost, the study found that the price of the drug itself was a minor contributor to the overall medical or total claims cost. SA opioids represented 0.3 percent of overall medical cost and 0.1 percent of overall claim cost, while LA opioids were approximately 3 percent of medical and 1.2 percent of total claim cost.

Strategies to Mitigate the Impact of Opioids

In the context of such clear and objective evidence that the use of opioid medications, particularly long-acting opioid medications, is an independent risk factor for the development of catastrophic claims, how do we now view the costs associated with proactively addressing addiction issues? Are cognitive behavioral and rehabilitation programs more reasonable strategies in light of these findings? How do we mitigate cost, facilitate settlement and provide better care?

The study’s findings reinforced Accident Fund’s decision to increase medical management on claims with opioids. “Our strategy consists of three elements: early detection, intervention and escalation,” said Jeffrey Austin White, MS, the study’s lead researcher and Accident Fund Holdings’ Director of Medical Management Practices and Strategy. “Leveraging technology solutions to identify opioid risk factors as soon as possible, establishing peer-to-peer intervention strategies based on case-specific needs and escalating internal workflows when specific triggers are met have improved patient outcomes and reduced costs.”

Applying Lessons Learned to Pre-Settlement Workflow

We at Tower MSA Partners applaud Accident Fund’s pro-active, enterprise-level approach to address opioid overutilization and applaud its success. We also recognize that the industry needs state-level pain guidelines. “Statutory support would provide a more comprehensive and general solution for managing opioid claims, until then, every opioid claim seems to require an individual approach with no guarantees,” White added.

Until states provide leadership through regulatory reform, what can payers do? While pain management is necessary, the abuse of opioids can cause hazardous, life-threatening side effects — for which payers may be held responsible.

PBM reports that identify chronic opioid use are available. Yet how do we get the appropriate information into the hands of those who can – and will – act on it? What is the appropriate action to take for each claimant? Are there jurisdictional requirements to meet when intervention is warranted? When (and by whom) should contact be made to the treating physician? How do we get treating physicians to modify drug therapy? Who follows through to verify that the drug regimen actually changes?

These are questions Tower MSA Partners addresses daily as part of its Pre-MSA Settlement Services. We work with clients to “stage” claims for settlement as early as possible. We define intervention triggers, initiate peer-to-peer contact with the treating physician when triggers are met, and obtain written agreement when treatment changes are approved. Most importantly, we stay involved to make certain positive outcomes are achieved. For information on the Accident Fund/Johns Hopkins study, “The Effects of Opioid Use on Workers’ Compensation Claim Cost in the State of Michigan,” please go to (subscription required.) For more information on Tower MSA Partners’ Pre-MSA Settlement Services, contact us at

WCRI Report – Physician Dispensing – Increases in Cost and Frequency in Workers’ Compensation

Posted on July 24, 2012 by Rita Wilson

On July 19, WCRI (Workers’ Compensation Research Institute)  released its most recent study on the rapid growth of physician-dispensed pharmaceuticals for injured workers under state workers’ compensation.   The study compares 23 states, including Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin highlighting changes in patterns of dispensing, as well as changes in percent of market and pricing from 2007/2008 thru 2010/2011.

Increases in Frequency and Cost for Physician Dispensed Drugs

Key findings in WCRI’s study year over year include the following:

  1. Physician-dispensed drugs became increasingly common in most states that permit physician dispensing.   In Florida, Illinois, pre-reform Georgia, Maryland, Connecticut and post-reform Arizona and California, physicians dispensed 28-53 percent of all prescriptions, representing 28-63 percent of total spending on workers’ compensation claims.
  2. Prices paid for physician-dispensed drugs were substantially higher than if the same drugs were dispensed by a retail pharmacy.  In 2010/2011, the price / pill when dispensed by a physician was 60-300 percent higher than the same prescriptions dispensed at a retail pharmacy.
  3. Prices paid to dispensing physicians rose rapidly for medications that were commonly dispensed by physicians, while the prices paid to pharmacies for the same drugs changed little or fell.  As an example, Physician dispensed Vicodin, Mobic and Ultram, all commonly prescrbed in workers’ compensation, saw a average price increase of 52 percent while the same drugs dispensed in a retail pharmacy setting either remained at the same price or experienced a price decrease.
  4. Dispensing physicians wrote prescriptions for and dispensed certain drugs (e.g., omeprazole [Prilosec®] and ranitidine HCL [Zantac®]) that are available without a prescription in a drug or grocery store at a much lower price.   When they did so, prices were 5-15 times higher than MSP retail prices.

With this trend of increased price and frequency of physician dispensed drugs , it is no surprise that several states have either banned the practice altogether, have initiatives in place to limit or prohibit, or are in the process of implementing reforms directed at reducing the cost of physician dispensing. The study examined the results of specific state initiatives, as well as highlighting baseline data for states with legislation currently in play.

States That Prohibit Physician Dispensing

In the United States, five states have prohibited physicians from dispensing drugs in general, by law.  These include Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Montana and Utah.  The first three are included in the study.  In all other states, issues related to physician dispenisng are more or less addressed through state workers’ compensation policies on state fee schedules, which set maximum reimbursement rates for prescrption drugs dispensed at pharmacies and physician offices.

Where Physician Dispensing is ‘Allowed’

Several states allow physician dispensing, but in some states, such as Arkansas and Minnesota, medical practices appear to be restrictive.  Arkansas, physician dispensed drugs are subject to the same fee schedule as pharmacy dispensed drugs. In both settings, the provider (whether pharmacist or physician) is required to report acquisition cost, and physicians do not receive a dispensing fee for drugs dispensed from their offices.  In Minnesota, physicians are allowed to dispense, but must register with the Medical Practices Board before doing so.  The physician must also disclose to the patient that the he/she profits from the dispensing of medications, and that the patient may choose to obtain  prescriptions from another source.

Louisiana limits physician dispensing of narcotics to a 48-hour supply, but allows for non-narcotic drugs to be physician dispensed for longer periods.  In Florida, as of June, 2011, physicians are prohibited from dispensing Schedule II and Schedule III narcotics.

Five states (Arizona, California, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia), allow physician dispensing, but have adopted reforms intended to limit the price markups for physician dispensed prescriptions.  Also, in Illinois, one of the largest noted in the study for cost increases associated with physician dispensing, the Workers’ Compensation Commission members voted Tuesday, July 24, 2012,  to move ahead with a proposed rule to regulate the price of repackaged drugs, dispite a recommendation by the Medical Fee Advisory Board not to proceed.  For the rest of the states, policies are either permissive or silent as they relate to physician dispensing.

In the state of Florida, while physician dispensing is prohibited for Schedule II and Schedule III narcotics as of June, 2011, the study still showed that 62 percent of all prescription drug spending in  Florida for injured workers was paid to physicians for drugs dispensed at their  offices—not to pharmacies.  This doesn’t mean 62 percent of all prescriptions….just 62 percent of the cost.  That’s the issue.

Certain drugs were prescribed and dispensed by physicians in Florida that were  infrequently prescribed in other states where physician dispensing was not  common. For example, 11 percent of the injured workers in Florida received  prescriptions for either Prilosec® or Zantac® as compared to less than 2 percent  in most other states. When physicians dispensed, the average price paid per pill  was $7.07 for Prilosec® and $4.81 for Zantac®, compared to $0.64 and $0.42 per  pill when the same drug was purchased over-the-counter at Walgreens.

In other states that allow physician dispensing of all prescriptions, as a  result of drug repackaging, prices paid to physicians were  typically much higher than what was paid to pharmacies for the same drug. For  example, the price for the most commonly used drug, Vicodin®, more than doubled  when dispensed by physicians compared to the pharmacy—an average of $1.08 per  pill at the physicians’ offices versus $0.43 at the pharmacy.

“There is a great discrepancy between what doctors and pharmacies charge for  dispensing the same drug,” observed Dr. Richard Victor, WCRI’s Executive  Director. “One question for policymakers is whether the large price difference  paid when physicians dispense is justified by the benefits of physician  dispensing. Policymakers can learn from the California reform experience, which  is also analyzed in this study.”

Pricing at WC Fee Schedule – Lessons Learned in California

One of the key findings of the report, the results of the California fee schedule reforms (physicians who dispensed were required to submit and price using the same NDC  as that used in retail pharmacies), provided evidence of the impact of physician dispensing on the following:

  1. Prices paid for physician-dispensed prescriptions;
  2. Patient access to physician-dispensed prescriptions;
  3. Physician prescribing and dispensing patterns for certain drugs.

Approximately 1/2 of all drugs dispensed in CA remain as physician dispensed.  Following fee schedule reforms, however, the number of repackaged drugs dispensed in CA dropped from 43 percent to 11 percent.   In effect, the average price / pill for physician-dispensed prescriptions decreased to that for pharmacy-dispensed prescriptions.

State Initiatives to Control Growth and Manage Cost

States that have either implemented reforms similar to that of California over the past year, or have bills under debate currently include Arizona, California, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  While the results of the legislative initiatives remain to be seen, California’s track record would lead us to believe that savings are possible if physicians are required to follow the same rules as their retail pharmacy counterparts when dispensing medications.

Impact on WCMSA Part D Cost Projection for Life Expectancy

As is the case in California and the other five states with reform initiatives onteh books, when physicians prescribe and dispense using the standard National Drug Code (NDC), pricing will occur at fee schedule or lower (if negotiated discounts are available).  From an MSA perspective, therefore, there are no objections to physician dispensing.  CMS Memos direct us to price at generic when available.   As such, when Tower identifies standard, commonly prescribed drugs being physician dispensed, we utilize the GCN (Generic Code Number) to determine therapeutic equivalency.  We then price at the lowest generic price available.

The Real Problem – Repackaging – Not Physician Dispensing

While physician dispensing is getting criticized, I would clarify that it is the process of repackaging medications that can be bought at much lower prices, and the egregious cost associated with repackaging, that is the real problem.  Many physicians, some who dispense, and others who do not, comment that the physicians aren’t the ones making money….it is the re-packagers that are making out ‘like bandits’.   While this may be true, it’s difficult to see how smart, educated physicians would continue this practice and the associated criticism if they aren’t making a nice profit.

 Potential Strategies to Mitigate Cost

The first step to mitigate claim cost is to be aware of physician dispensing and to move quickly to verify what the actual drug is.  Tower MSA Partners has full access to CMS mandated REDBOOK for drug pricing for all FDA approved NDC’s, as well as access to generic therapeutic equivalent drugs if they exist.   Ask the question.  Once you know what is being dispensed, and you understand the role the drug/compound plays in the overall treatment of the injury, the next question is whether intervention is appropriate to modify treatment and hopefully reduce cost.  We can assist there as well to make recommendations for nurse oversight, physician reviews. etc.

WCRI’s announcement of the report can be found at   For more information on physician dispensing and ‘staging’ claims to reduce claim cost , and to mitigate settlement and MSA issues, give us a call at 888-331-4941.

Lyrica Approved for Spinal Neuropathic Pain – What Are the MSA Implications if Pfizer Extends Patent?

Posted on July 3, 2012 by Tower MSA Partners

On June 21, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of Lyrica for use in the management of neuropathic pain associated with chronic, debilitating spinal cord injuries. Lyrica, the brand name for pregabalin, is manufactured by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and is already widely used to treat fibromyalgia pain.

Prevalence of SCI Associated Neuropathic Pain
According to Pfizer, about 40 percent of the 270,000 Americans with spinal cord injuries suffer from chronic neuropathic pain that they describe as severe or excruciating. An estimated 12,000 new spinal cord injury patients are diagnosed in the U.S.each year.

Patients may experience neuropathic pain above, at or below the level of the spinal cord injury, and it may persist for up to 25 years. The pain stems from traumatic causes, such as motor vehicle accidents, violence, falls and sports injuries; where displaced bone fragments, disc material, or ligaments bruise or tear into spinal cord tissue.

Spinal neuropathic pain can also stem from non-traumatic causes, such as congenital and developmental abnormalities, genetics, infections and inflammation, removal of a benign spinal tumor and spinal cord ischemic stroke.

Treatment Options Previously Available
“Until now, no FDA approved treatment options were available in the U.S.for people with neuropathic pain associated with spinal cord injury, a condition which can be extremely disabling,” said Steven J. Romano, MD, senior vice president of Pfizer’s global primary care unit.

The FDA’s approval was based on studies of 357 patients – some with traumatic spinal cord injuries, and some with both traumatic and non-traumatic injuries. In addition to Lyrica, patients in the randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled Phase III trials were allowed to continue taking other pain medications, including NSAIDS, opioids and non-opioids.

Pain Reduction & Side Effects
According to Pfizer, patients taking Lyrica received up to a 50% reduction in pain than did patients receiving a placebo. Some experienced relief as early as week one and continuing through the duration of the 12 and 16 week trials.

Side effects experienced by patients included somnolence, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue and peripheral edema.

Pfizer recently halted studies testing Lyrica’s effectiveness in treating neuropathic pain caused by HIV infection or diabetes after preliminary results showed that it was no more effective than a placebo.

Potential Impact on WCMSA and Settlement Cost
Though FDA approved only for neuropathic pain associated with fibromyaligia, Lyrica has consistently been listed in the Top 5 drugs used ‘off label’ in workers’ compensation (NCCI Research Brief, Workers’ Compensation Prescription Drug
Study: 2011 Update).  And, while CMS, in its May 2010 Memo, noted that off label drugs would be approved for inclusion in a WCMSA only as follows: For a Part D drug to be covered by Medicare, and thus included properly in a WCMSA, the drug should be prescribed for an outpatient use that is approved under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act [21 U.S.C.A. § 301 et seq.], or supported by one or more citations included or approved for inclusion in any of the compendia described in subsection (g)(1)(B)(I) of 42 U.S.C. Section 1396r-8. “,  in practice, CMS has included Lyrica as an approved drug more frequently than its has accepted its exclusion from the WCMSA based on the cited compendia.

As an added cost to those who prepare WCMSA’s, the recent FDA approval of Lyrica for spinal cord injuries allowed Pfizer to apply for an extension to its patent, and on July 19, 2012, patent rights preventing any generic substitutions of Lyrica® were extended by a district court until at least 2018.

A generic version of Lyrica  called ‘Lupin’ was approved on July 5th, 2012, which would have make it available for use in the WCMSA next summer.  Unfortunately, the district court’s decision to extend the patent rights will prevent the sale of this generic until December 2018.  As a result, MSA providers will be forced to price for the ‘branded’ single source version of Lyrica for an extended period of time, thus making the MSA cost projection for life expectancy much higher.

At Tower MSA Partners, our methdology, as it relates to Lyrica will continue to be as follows:

  1. Review the appropriateness of the medical and drug treatment for the specific injury with our panel of physicians.
  2. Identify triggers that warrant intervention and stop the WCMSA process.
  3. Work with the adjuster to establish an action plan to change treatment.
  4. Involve our team of physicians to review and contact the treating physician.

Combining evidentiary based medical guidelines with peer-to-peer contact, many treating physicians have been open to dialogue and willing to make changes.

As one of the most expensive drugs prescribed in workers’ compensation, we see the FDA approval of Lyricanal for spinal cord injuries to be of concern to those who seek to settle claims involving future medical for Medicare beneficiaries.  Lyrica is, and will continue to be, a significant cost driver for the MSA.  We do not, however, anticipate a change in our course of action when reviewing medical and pharmacy records prior to completing the MSA.  We will include Lyrica among our list of pre-MSA triggers, and will work proactively with our clients to get it removed by the treating physician prior to submission of the MSA for CMS approval.

Going forward, we will continue to monitor Lyrica and the prescribing patterns followed in workers’ compensation.  We will also monitor CMS’s inclusion of Lyrica as an approved drug for spinal cord injuries when reviewing a WCMSA.  For more information about Lyrica, or any  aspect of our pre-MSA review process, please contact us directly.

The Rising Cost of Opioid Narcotics In Workers Compensation

Posted on June 23, 2012 by Tower MSA Partners

New studies and research on Narcotics In Workers’ Compensation.

The  American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine states, “the overuse of opioid therapy to treat chronic pain conditions is becoming epidemic in the United States,” and, “there are many treatments that should be considered before opioids”. According to this organization:

  • “Opioids are  becoming more controversial in large part because of … markedly elevated eath risks that have paralleled increases in consumption of opioids narcotics)”
  • “Routine use of opioids for the treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain conditions is not recommended”
  • “Opioids are recommended for select patients with chronic persistent pain, neuropathic pain, or CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome).”

Two years ago, NCCI released a study on the use of narcotics in workers compensation. Findings from that study include the following:

  • There is a correlation between drug abuse treatments and heavy narcotic use
  • There has been an increase in early narcotic use
  • The use of narcotics can continue for many years

In the update released on June 5, 2012, changes and key trends identified by NCCI were as follows:

  • Per-claim narcotic costs have increased
  • There have been changes in which narcotics are most commonly used
  • Narcotic use is concentrated among a small percentage of claimants
  • Initial narcotic use is indicative of future use

Overall Trends

The study begins with a look at the average narcotic cost per workers compensation claim with medical transactions. NCCI found that per-claim costs grew steadily from 2001 to  2004, remained fairly flat for a few years, and then increased in 2009. From 2001 to 2004, per-claim narcotic costs grew at an average of 18 percent per year. From 2004 to 2008, per-claim narcotic costs grew at an average of 1 percent per year. While there has generally been lower growth in recent years, the narcotic cost per-claim in 2009 is 14 percent greater than it was in 2008.

Narcotic use in workers compensation is becoming more common. In 2001, 28 percent of all claimants with medical transactions received at least one prescription drug within one year following injury and 8 percent received narcotics. In 2008, these numbers increased to 38 and 13 percent respectively. This implies that in 2008, over one-third of claimants with prescriptions received narcotics, up from 27 percent in 2001.

 Trends in Active Ingredients

NCCI identified seven active ingredients that account for more than 95 percent of the total cost of narcotics used in workers compensation. These include: morphine sulfate, oxymorphone, fentanyl citrate, fentanyl, oxycodone, oxycodone with acetaminophen, and hydrocodone BIT with acetaminophen.

The only major shifts in market share by active ingredient over the past few years have been a simultaneous reduction in the use of Fentanyl Citrate and an increase in the use of Oxymorphone HCL. While Oxymorphone HCL has been available through an injection since 1959, it only became available as an oral tablet in mid-2006.

Narcotic Consumption Among Claimants

Narcotic use in workers compensation is highly concentrated among a small percentage of claimants.  The narcotics consumed by the top 1 percent of claimants receiving narcotics accounts for close to 40 percent of all narcotic costs; the narcotics consumed by the top 10 percent of claimants receiving narcotics accounts for about 80 percent of all workers compensation narcotic costs. While narcotic use is highly concentrated, NCCI also noted a slight downward trend in the share of narcotic costs for the top users.

Tracking Morphine Equivalent Dosage (MEQ)

NCCI first investigated the persistence of narcotic use in workers compensation in 2009 and found that, while the probability of continued use declined with time, narcotic use could continue for many years. This study expands the 2009 analysis by investigating the relationship between the amount of narcotics initially consumed and the persistence of their use by tracking each drug based on its respective morphine quivalent dosage (MEQ).

Example:  According to, the usual adult dose for time-released Oxycodone (OxyContin®) is 10 mg orally every 12 hours.  Assuming a claimant consumes 10 mg pills:

  • 100 MEQ is equivalent to approximately 7 tablets of 10mg OxyContin®
  • 370 MEQ is equivalent to approximately 25 tablets of 10mg OxyContin®
  • 825 MEQ is equivalent to approximately 55 tabletss of 10mg OxyContin®

In its findings NCCI first noted that early narcotic use was indicative of  long term use with the average MEQ per claim receiving narcotics increasing with claim maturity. Second, NCCI found that the MEQ ranking was maintained in subsequent quarters; for example, those claims defined the by highest MEQ in initial use maintained its higher-than-other-claimant status throughout the life of the claim.

Conclusions and Commentary

Pain management is a necessary part of the worker’s compensation rehabilitation process, but the abuse of opioids can cause hazardous, life-threatening side effects for which payers may ultimately be held responsible. Payers who track and identify use patterns can better uncover any potential abuses before they become a litigious issue.

PBM reports that identify triggers such as chronic opioid narcotic use, high dollar narcotic spend, multiple physicians, multiple pharmacies are widely available across all providers.  With this level of information regarding claimants at risk readily available, why then does the opioid narcotic issue appear to be getting worse?  It is my belief that there is a disconnect between the information and the action.

How do we get the appropriate information into the hands of those who can, and will,
act on it?  What is the appropriate action to take for each claimant?  Are there jurisdictional requirements that must be met when intervention is warranted?  When and by whom should contact be made to the treating physician?  How do we get the agreement from the treating physicians to modify treatment?  Who follows through to verify that treatment is modified?

The items listed above are a subset of the many questions we ask at Tower MSA
Partners with every referral.  We work with clients to ‘stage’ claims prior to settlement and the MSA, and to address medical, pharmacy and legal issues as early in the claims process as possible.  We contact the treating physician when changes are needed and obtain written agreement.  We then follow through to make certain the changes are made and outcomes are achieved.

When physicians refuse to modify treatment, we also work with clients to identify specific, jurisdictionally approved strategies to obtain positive outcomes.  Depending on state of jurisdiction, we assist clients to challenge treatment, pursue a change in treatment  provider, close formularies, initiate dispute resolution, send the claim through utilization review, etc.

Potential strategies to address the rising problem with opioid narcotics involve 4
critical steps:

  1. First, establish the internal triggers you wish to track;
  2. Be proactive in identifying cases that meet your triggers;
  3. Act on the information;
  4. Follow through.

NCCI’s full report on opioid narcotics in workers’ compensation can be found at NCCI: Narcotics in Workers Compensation


NCCI Releases New Study on Effects of Obesity in Workers Comp

Posted on June 20, 2012 by Tower MSA Partners

There is mounting evidence of obesity contributing to the cost of workers compensation. Longitudinal studies by Duke University of its own employees-and by Johns Hopkins University of employees of a multi-site U.S. aluminum manufacturing company-point to substantially higher odds of injury for workers in the highest obesity category. Further, a 2011 Gallup survey found that obese employees account for a disproportionately high number of missed workdays, thus causing a significant loss in economic output. Finally, earlier NCCI research of workers compensation claims found that claimants with a comorbidity code indicating obesity experience medical costs that are a multiple of what is observed for comparable non-obese claimants.

The study shows that, based on Temporary Total and Permanent Total indemnity benefit payments, the duration of obese claimants is more than five times the duration of non-obese claimants, after controlling for primary ICD-9 code, injury year, U.S. state, industry, gender, and age. When Permanent Partial benefits are counted toward indemnity benefit duration as well, this multiple climbs to more than six.

And if the statistics aren’t enough to encourage action, consider this….

Employee is a 54 yr old laborer working for a landscaping company.  He is 5’4″ tall and weighs 310 pounds.  In 2002, while walking on grass with a bucket of weeds, he tripped on a rock.   Injured worker treated conservatively for years for knee and back pain as he was too large for an MRI (even the open ones only take up to 300 pounds).  The doctors felt that the only option for treatment was knee replacement surgery, but injured worker was told his obesity precluded him from being a candidate – he needed to lose 100 pounds before surgery was feasible.

By 2004 injured worker was over 350 pounds and unable to work. Employer continued to pay both indemnity and medical.  At this point, employer authorized a weight loss program and also paid for gym membership and transport.  To be certain progress was being made, employer authorized surveillance.  Injured worker was photographed going to gym and sitting.

In February, 2011, injured worker had lapband surgery.  He lost 60 pounds in first 6  months  -at this point he is down to 250 lbs and  requires surgery to remove skin, but still 50 pounds to go before knee surgery can occur.

Injured worker is now 64 yrs old now, not able to work and still waiting for surgery…

This incredible story is also true, and one I’m sure many of us can repeat from our own experiences…. as we’ve all heard many times, “truth is stranger than fiction”.

As a Medicare Set Aside company, Tower MSA Partners is reminded everyday of the significant impact of obesity on future medical cost  (Duke University,”Obesity and Workers’ Compensation: Results from the Duke Health and Safety Surveillance System”, 2007,  lists mthe edical cost of obese patients as 6.8 times that of patients of recommended weight) .   We also see the impact of obesity on both the quality of life and the life expectancy of the Medicare beneficiary.  Taking it a step further, when one considers the strong relationship between high opioid narcotic use and the lifestyle changes that almost invaribly lead to obesity, we find yet another reason to work diligently to identify these combination triggers as early in the life of the claim as possible.

The free report is available from NCCI here: NCCI Study on Effect of Obesity in Workers Comp.

For Media Inquires, Contact:

Helen King Patterson

    Subscribe to our blog & news

    Search our blog:

    Contact Us for a FREE Consultation