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Written by: Brad Inman
Two long-time Deputy Commissioners have recently been nominated by Governor Roy Cooper for appointment to the Full Commission. Deputy Commissioners Robert J. Harris and Myra L. Griffin have both served in their current roles since 2005, adjudicating cases and conducting full evidentiary hearings around the state. Their appointments are pending confirmation by the North Carolina General Assembly, so Deputy Commissioners Harris and Griffin will continue to hear cases as Deputy Commissioners until the confirmation process is complete and each has been sworn in. In addition to policy-setting, the six Full Commissioners sit in panels of three to represent the Commission’s appellate level, hearing claims appealed from Deputy Commissioner decisions.
The other big news at the Commission is the expected final approval of new rules surrounding the use and prescription of opioids, related medications, and pain management treatment. The rule-making process is nearing completion, with the stated goals of ensuring that injured workers are provided the services and care intended by the Workers’ Compensation Act and medical costs are adequately contained. Much more about the specific provisions will be addressed in future blog posts when the rules become official, but the proposed rules will hold medical providers to strict standards and documentation requirements when it comes to prescribing controlled substances. Certain drugs, such as fentanyl, will be prohibited from prescription during the first twelve weeks of treatment and mechanisms will be put into place to ensure that the lowest effective dosage of narcotic medication is utilized. Again, the specific rules will be analyzed here when they become effective, which is expected by May 2018.
We are always available for consultation regarding the impact of the Commission appointments, how the current make-up of the Commission affects claim handling, and strategies for utilizing the anticipated opioid rules for maximum claim impact and cost containment.