Senate Approves Bill Addressing Opioid Abuse, Escalating Costs Under Workers’ Comp

On October 25, one day before President Trump declared America’s opioid crisis a public health emergency, the Senate of Pennsylvania approved legislation to address opioid abuse within Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation system.

The passage of Senate Bill 936 came on the heels of a recent investigatory report from the Philadelphia Daily News which exposed a new business arrangement between lawyers and doctors. The report illustrated in detail how attorneys representing injured workers have jointly purchased pharmacies with the physicians who treat their clients.

This alliance has created a profit motive for providers to dispense drugs in greater quantities and for longer durations than medically appropriate and has contributed to Pennsylvania’s disreputable distinction as a leading state for opioids prescribed to injured workers.

The bill, introduced by Senator Don White (R-41), Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), and Senator Mike Regan (R-31), would require the state Department of Labor & Industry to adopt an evidence-based drug formulary for Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation program. 

“The adoption of a drug formulary, which is commonplace in health insurance, will set evidence-based standards for the medication that can be prescribed to a Workers’ Comp patient,” explained Senator White (R-41). “In addition to lowering costs and providing better care for patients, this proposal will greatly assist the Commonwealth in our battle against the opioid addiction crisis,” he added.

“The basic goal of our Workers’ Compensation system should be getting injured workers healthy and ready to rejoin the workforce. By removing the profit incentive from prescribing practices, Senate Bill 936 addresses both the financial and human costs of this questionable business arrangement,” added Senator Regan (R-31).

“I commend my Senate colleagues for advancing Senate Bill 936, to protect the health of injured workers and our communities,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25). “Addressing the opioid crisis facing our Commonwealth has been and continues to be a top priority for our Caucus.  We are hopeful that the House of Representatives and Governor Wolf will join us in support of this legislation, as a crucial step to combat the opioid crisis.”  

Senate Bill 936, which passed the Senate with bi-partisan support, is awaiting committee referral in the House of Representatives.


Contact:          Joe Pittman