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2020 workers compensation law changes

The new year is now upon us, and it is time to look ahead to what the year may bring for the area of workers’ compensation in California. While many aspects of the workers’ compensation system in this state are expected to remain constant, the year 2020 may bring about some new changes and things to consider as you pursue your workers’ compensation case for benefits.

If you have suffered an injury that you believe to be work-related, it is important to speak with an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible regarding your potential case. Having an attorney on your side from the beginning can help ensure that all filing deadlines are met and that your case moves forward smoothly. The California workers’ compensation attorneys at Kneisler and Schondel are here to help you fight for the benefits you deserve and a favorable outcome for your workers’ compensation case. Contact our office today to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys to get started.

Pain Prescription Practices are Changing

In most workers’ compensation cases, the injured worker is experiencing a moderate or even severe amount of pain caused by their injury. Opiates or other pain medications are often prescribed in workers’ compensation cases. Throughout the country, there has been a move toward a reduction in the number of opiate prescriptions in order to help fight back against the nation’s opioid crisis.

A Reduction in Opioid Prescription Rates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the prescribing rates of opioids have dropped significantly since 2012, with a drop from 81.3 prescriptions per 100 people down to 58.7 prescriptions per 100 people in 2017. As there continue to be more efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions across the nation, it is likely that this downward trend will continue into 2020 and beyond.

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The California Workers’ Compensation Institute Findings Regarding Opioid Prescription Rates

According to the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, opioid prescription rates for injured workers are also dropping. The percentage of prescriptions of this medication to injured workers ended up dropping from 30.5% in 2009 down to 18% in 2017. It is anticipated that this figure will continue to drop for 2020.

It should also be noted that though the state and nation as a whole are moving toward an overall reduction in opioid prescriptions in the area of workers’ compensation and in general, there are still many instances where these prescriptions are appropriate and necessary for injured workers and other patients. These medications, when used responsibly, can really make a difference in the recovery and quality of life for injured workers. However, it is worthwhile to consider other treatment and pain management options on a case by case basis according to the recommendations of the treating physicians.

Continued High Rates of Approval of Medical Treatments for Injured Workers in California

The California Workers’ Compensation Institute has confirmed that a new study has shown noted improvements in the California workers’ compensation medical review and approval process. The study found that 94.1% of all medical services that were either performed or requested for injured workers in California were either approved or approved with modifications.

This study measured the medical service approval, denial, and modification rates both overall and by service category for the first ten months following the 2018 workers’ compensation law changes. These changes altered the Utilization Review process, which had previously been in place for over a decade, and the Independent Medical Review process that had been implemented in 2013. The new changes included the adoption of a prescription drug formulary that was to be based on evidence-based guidelines, which exempts some specific drugs from prospective utilization reviews. 

Additionally, the study looked at the effects of the changes made by SB 1160 that allowed for utilization review exemptions for most of the medical services provided to injured workers within thirty days of the date of their injury, along with the basic services that are performed by Medical Provider Network providers (which meet the evidence-based guidelines), and also emergency services. It is predicted that this trend will continue based on the successful results of these changes to California workers’ compensation law.

As the new year begins, we expect that there will be a continuation of some of the recent trends in California workers’ compensation law. If you have any questions or concerns about how these trends or any new legislation may impact your workers’ compensation claim, contact the attorneys at Kneisler and Schondel at (707) 542-5132 or fill out our online contact form today. We can help you pursue workers’ compensation benefits in your work injury case.