Insight, analysis & opinion from Joe Paduda

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Oct
6

Work comp drug spend – profiteering rampant in LA FL and PA

WCRI’s webinar on interstate variations in drug payments reminds us that lax regulations and absent legislators cost taxpayers and employers millions.

Slides are here – and are free to access. The report itself is here – available free to members and a nominal fee for non-members.

There’s a ten-fold variation across the 28 states studied by WCRI, with WI MN and MA around $22 in quarterly drug spend per claim, but LA and FL right around $200. A far higher percentage of claimants get scripts in the two high-spend states than in those on the lower end – and I’ll bet most of those are from dispensing physicians and attorney-represented workers using mail-order pharmacies.

WCRI looked at data from non-COVID claims less than 3 years old in 28 states from Q1 2018 to Q1 2021.

Top takeaway – overall quarterly drug payments dropped from $102 in Q1 2015 to $68 in Q1 2021 – but PA FL and CT – states with physician dispensing and/or mail order pharmacy problems – actually saw an increase – and that increase was largely driven by dermatological agents.

Want more evidence of the rampant profiteering enabled by lax regulations and compromised legislators?

  • Dermatological payments account for about 20% of payments in the median state – although there’s a wide variation, from 6% in the lowest state to over half (52%) of payments in the highest state.
  • These dermatological agents are almost always combos of lidocaine, menthol, diclofenac sodium and other generics – profiteers mix ’em up and bill at a huge markup.
  • PA is especially egregious – the vast majority of these dermatologicals are pharmacy-dispensed, and the average price paid was over $300.
  • Physician dispensed drugs accounted for more than half of drug costs in several states including Florida
  • It’s not just dermatologicals…California saw a big jump in NSAIDS driven by fenoprofen and ketoprofen…both questionable medications that have become darlings of the physician dispensing/mail order profiteers.

There’s good news too…after dermos, NSAIDs have the next highest payment across all drug groups at 18%…while opioids account for about 7% in the median states – way down from 13% in the same quarter three years ago.

I’d note that this is for claims <3 years old, and likely reflects the successful effort to avoid prescribing opioids to patients better served by other therapies.

What does this mean for you?

PA FL LA and CT  – stop screwing employers and taxpayers.

 

 


Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates

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A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.

 

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