North Carolina Proposes Rules for Opioid Use in Workers’ Comp Cases

January 8, 2018

The North Carolina Industrial Commission has proposed new rules related to the utilization of opioids, related prescriptions and pain management treatment as a proactive measure aimed at curtailing opioid misuse and addiction in workers’ compensation claims, according to a statement by Chairman Charlton L. Allen.

The rules proposed for adoption are promulgated to ensure that injured workers are provided the services and care intended by the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act and that medical costs are adequately contained, the statement says.

“Opioid misuse and addiction are a major public health crisis in this state,” said Allen. “Many injured workers are prescribed opioid medications as part of treatment for their injuries, creating a nexus between the problems affecting the general population and the workers’ compensation system. These rules are a comprehensive, well-reasoned solution for North Carolina.”

In February 2017, Allen established the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Opioid Task Force to study and recommend solutions for the problems arising from the intersection of the opioid epidemic and related issues in workers’ compensation claims. After formation of the Opioid Task Force, the General Assembly authorized the Commission to adopt rules and guidelines for the utilization of opioid-related prescriptions and pain management treatment.

The commission said the proposed rules are intended to facilitate the timely and effective delivery of appropriate medical treatment for pain management in workers’ compensation claims.

“It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure that injured workers receive reasonable and necessary care for their injuries. As part of that responsibility, it is critical that the commission take steps to identify best practices and adopt meaningful solutions to help address this crisis where possible,” stated Allen.

The commission said it spent several months on research and stakeholder collaboration in developing the proposed utilization rules. It also considered the recommendations of the Opioid Task Force and feedback received through preliminary public comment.

A public hearing is scheduled for March 2, 2018, and the commission will accept written comments until March 19, 2018. The earliest effective date of the proposed rules, if adopted by the Industrial Commission and approved by the Rules Review Commission, is May 1, 2018. The proposed rules can be found on the North Carolina Industrial Commission website.