HARRISBURG – A Republican-backed bill whose proponents and allies say has the potential to improve Workers' Compensation law practices and help stop opioid addiction now heads to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf, after passage in the General Assembly.
First receiving passage in the state Senate last October, Senate Bill 936 was approved in the state House of Representatives on Monday on its second attempt, by a final vote of 101 to 92.
Its author, Sen. Donald C. White (R–41), and fellow Republican lawmakers who co-signed S.B. 936 indicated in a legislative memo that the bill would focus on the topic of opioid abuse and seek to stop law firms and doctors from profiting off medicines prescribed to their clients and patients.
S.B. 936 calls for the selection of a “nationally-recognized, evidence-based prescription drug formulary appropriate for resolving issues related to drugs prescribed for or related to the treatment of work-related injuries, including, but not limited to, the type, dosage and duration of prescriptions.”
The most recent iteration of S.B. 936 was introduced in October, after media reports that Workers’ Compensation attorneys and pain management physicians directed their clients and patients to pharmacies in which they stood to profit from ownership interest, then billed their employers’ insurance providers for expensive and federally-unapproved pain management cream tubes to the tune of $4,000 or more per tube.
Many Democratic legislators, however, feel the bill is a broad overreach because it covers all treatments and medications prescribed to injured workers – rather than just strictly opioids – and may complicate the path to those same workers seeking needed medical assistance from their doctors.
The Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR) says it hailed “the passing [of] legislation that would improve health outcomes for injured workers, curtail the dangerous practice of profiting off medically-unproven, non-FDA-approved compound creams and help to prevent opioid addiction.”
“Members of the House did the right thing – in the name of taking action against the opioid epidemic and pushing back on unscrupulous workers’ compensation law firm practices that are more focused on profits than helping people,” PCCJR’s Executive Director Curt Schroder said.
“We urge the governor to sign S.B. 936 into law so that Pennsylvania can reverse the course of these dangerous practices and help stem the tide of opioid addiction.”
Schroder expressed concern that Gov. Wolf may veto S.B. 936, citing the governor’s opposition to the measure and his espousal of “false arguments promoted by plaintiff lawyers and certain pharmacies, both of which have generously supported his re-election campaign.”
Prior to the House of Representatives taking its vote, it was revealed in a Philadelphia Inquirer story that the governor’s campaign had received $1.1 million in campaign contributions from a political action committee called “Fairness PA” – one which Schroder says is “connected to those perpetuating the same workers’ compensation and pharmaceutical scams that S.B. 936 seeks to address.”
“It’s Gov. Wolf’s turn to do the right thing and sign S.B. 936 into law. Gov. Wolf should set an example by reversing the course of these dangerous practices and help stem the tide of opioid addiction,” Schroder said.
J.J. Abbott, Press Secretary and Spokesman for Gov. Wolf, was not able to be reached for comment.
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org