Proposed legislation in the New Jersey Senate would restrict coverage of opioid drugs for workers’ compensation benefit recipients, requiring prescribing doctors to assess the patient’s medical history and potential addiction to opioids, create a detailed treatment plan, and inform the patient of potential risks of opioid drugs before the prescription can be covered under workers’ compensation plans.

The New Jersey bill, S3003, was proposed on September 30 and is based on similar 2010 Washington state legislation that was the first of its kind. It similarly restricts the prescription of opioid drugs in personal injury protection coverage under private passenger automobile insurance policies.

In recent years, research has increasingly shown that prescription of opioid pain relievers following injuries and surgeries increase the amount of time workers spend away from work and costs to workers’ compensation systems all over the country.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak says he proposed the bill not because opiate drug prescriptions pose more of a problem in New Jersey but as a proactive measure against the national, “two-fold problem of the abuse and overuse of opiate drugs to deal with pain management and its impact on workers’ ability to get back to work.”

“Our system is fairly well regulated because, unlike many other states, the employer actually chooses the doctor,” says Lesniak.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who is also General Organizer for the ironworkers' union. Lesniak says Sweeney “has seen firsthand workers not being able to return to work, not because of their original injury, but because of their addiction to narcotic painkillers.”