2018 Workers’ Compensation Trends

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2018 is slated to bring many changes to the Workers’ Compensation industry.

These changes are being implemented for a variety of reasons, including fluctuations in healthcare costs, advances in technology changing how Workers’ Compensation providers can better serve injured workers, and the opioid epidemic.

Below are a few of the most prominent trends set to change how injured workers and their employers use Workers’ Compensation in 2018 and beyond.


A drug formulary is a list of prescription drugs that healthcare providers use to determine which drugs provide the greatest value. These lists include brand-name and generic drugs. Pennsylvania is one of a few states whose lawmakers studied the value of creating a drug formulary in 2017, but did not implement it with this year’s laws. Rather, it will likely revisit the idea in 2018.

New Pain Management Strategies

Research has shown that patients benefit from a whole-person approach to pain management. This is also known as a biopsychosocial approach. With this type of approach, a patient might receive behavioral therapy alongside physical therapy to treat every aspect of their injury, which could include reduced range of motion and strength loss, as well as emotional trauma following their accident.

A few ways Workers’ Compensation providers are adapting to this approach is by covering treatment methods like yoga, meditation, and acupuncture. As more states continue to legalize marijuana for medical use, this, too, could become part of modern Workers’ Compensation packages.

Treatment Guidelines

In many of the states where Workers’ Compensation reform is taking place, treatment guidelines are being implemented alongside drug formularies. Together, these changes can positively impact prescribing behaviors and lead to more effective treatment for patients.

Treatment guidelines provide outlines for healthcare providers to follow. They can include prescription limits, such as guidelines that set a maximum amount of opioid pills a doctor may prescribe or that a pharmacy can disburse to a patient. This may serve as part of the ongoing effort to curb opioid addictions.

Changing Laws

A few states are implementing new Workers’ Compensation laws in 2018 to update their existing laws. Among these states are Pennsylvania, Florida and California.

Debates surrounding Workers’ Compensation changes will likely also come up in other states. One example is Illinois, where the current governor is seeking re-election, and must contend with a Democrat-controlled legislature.

In some states, the changes are not new laws, but challenges to old laws and revisions based on the unconstitutionality of existing laws. Pennsylvania is one of these states. In 2017, a portion of Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation law was found unconstitutional by the state supreme court. This ruling means reform is necessary.

Increased Automation of Claims

Using online reporting and other forms of automation can help injured workers receive benefits in a more streamlined, timely manner. Bringing Workers’ Compensation claims online can also help providers make use of patients’ electronic health records and relevant data to deliver appropriate, personalized treatment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeffrey S. Gross
As a partner with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, firm Batt & Gross, Jeffrey S. Gross has represented injured workers in the Philadelphia area since 1991. He focuses exclusively on Workers’ Compensation litigation, including subrogation matters, full and partial disability claims, lump sum settlements, occupational diseases and workplace fatalities, and he has a long record of success aggressively pursuing the best interests of his clients.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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