In a prior post, we highlighted the trend of injured workers becoming addicted to painkilling drugs and using illegal drugs in conjunction with them. This indeed is a dangerous trend affecting workers, and new legislation is being developed to curtail abuse.
The Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment Act (also called LifeBOAT) is proposed to provide funding for substance abuse treatment programs geared towards injured workers. The bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate through a bi-partisan effort and is poised to impose a one-cent per milligram tax on opioid-based painkillers.
The proposed tax is expected to generate between $1.5 and $2 billion each year. The proceeds are expected to be used to fund addiction treatment facilities, increase reimbursement for mental health providers, and establish sober living homes. While these aims are worthy, opponents of the bill claim that the tax is more like a vice tax (like those imposed for cigarettes) where they are not necessary when considering the plight of injured workers.
Also, opponents believe that the tax will have little effect on prescribing habits, which have been noted to be the predominant issue when considering how some injured workers become dependent on painkillers because they continually have access to them.
It remains to be seen how the bill will be discussed as it reaches (and emerges) from committees, but it shines further light on the problem of opioid addiction among injured workers. If you have questions about how your workers compensation benefits may be affected if you seek opioids for pain management.