Expanded pain management options for workers’ compensation

In Minnesota, injured employees can now utilize medical marijuana while under workers’ compensation thanks to a new ruling in 2015.

Pain management can be an extremely difficult thing. Many Minnesota residents suffer with chronic pain after surgical procedures, injuries or illnesses. Earlier this year, the state legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. A month later, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry enacted a new rule which made medical marijuana use allowed under the workers' compensation program.

Injured workers now have a new option for how to treat ongoing pain but this option is not without some clear parameters. It is also still somewhat controversial. Employees must be aware of is that the DLI will approve payments for medications as part of workers' compensation claims. However, these medications must meet the DLI's standard as being both medically necessary and reasonable.

Not the only option

Medical marijuana is not to be considered the only or even the first line of defense against pain for injured employees. Business Insurance notes that in each case, health care providers must still consider the use of other ways of managing pain. These can include non-invasive options like acupuncture or physical therapy or medications like anti-seizure or anti-inflammatory drugs.

The use of opioids can also still be deemed an appropriate form of treatment for pain. In addition to several unpleasant side effects, perhaps the biggest concern regarding drugs like Percocet and Vicodin is the potential for addiction. Medical marijuana does not have this potential, thereby making it a more attractive alternative to some people. Addiction aside, ongoing use of medical marijuana can lead to impaired learning ability and a reduced interest in work activities as well as lowered energy levels.

Legal in Minnesota, not nationally

The ability for people with workers' compensation claims in Minnesota to benefit from medical marijuana still poses some concerns. Among these is the fact that its use remains illegal at the national level. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana as a medical substance. Some professionals deem its effectiveness as of yet inconclusive. Nonetheless, people hurt on the job in Minnesota may be able to utilize it in their courses of treatment.

Complexity of workers' compensation

Filing a workers' compensation claim can be very complex and time consuming whether or not medical marijuana is part of the treatment. Employees in need of workers' compensation benefits and assistance should contact an experienced lawyer for help with a claim. Receiving approval on a first try is important so as to avoid the need for an appeal should an initial claim be denied.