Developing a Medicare Set-Aside is not only a time-consuming and arduous process, but can also be unnecessarily expensive. There are many instances where tremendous sums of money are included in an MSA just because stakeholders were not diligent in analyzing what was included.
A case in point was a recent situation in which a medication the injured worker had taken only one time was set to be part of his lifetime medications in the MSA. Had this seemingly simple oversight not been flagged, it would have driven up the cost of the MSA by hundreds of thousands of dollars!
We hear all too often about injured workers who, unfortunately, fall through the cracks in the workers’ compensation system and are not appropriately cared for. While these represent only a small minority of cases, they generate headlines. Equally disturbing are stories of injured workers who’ve settled their cases and soon after find themselves out of money with no hope of paying for their future medical expenses, let alone moving on with their lives.
The goal of developing an MSA is to identify as accurately as possible the total cost that will be incurred during the injured worker’s life. The amount needs to include all expenses related only to the specific injury, as well as other treatments that may be needed later on.
Either party – injured worker or employer/payer – can wind up on the losing end of a settlement if it is not done correctly. This is why it is so important for all parties to carefully review the medications, procedures, and costs involved before signing off on an MSA.
Case Study (Provided by Tower MSA Partners): $270,917 in Savings from Physician Follow-up
An injured worker had been diagnosed with a variety of conditions stemming from a workplace injury, including depression, anxiety, complex regional pain syndrome and bilateral hand/arm pain with radiation to his right shoulder and neck. He was ready to settle his claim and leave the workers’ compensation system.
Among the six RXs included in the MSA projection was Nucynta 50mg. This opioid is meant to be a short-term treatment for moderate to severe pain. Not only is it highly addictive, but also extremely expensive. It comprised $245,721 of the MSA amount.
The worker had, understandably been treated by several physicians in the year before he agreed to settle. But the medical records were less than complete.
Total MSA Exposure — $326,925.
With so many physicians involved, Tower’s physician follow-up team first obtained statements from each of the six providers involved in the worker’s treatment. They confirmed the last dates of services and whether medications had been continued or not. If they were, the name of the drug, dosage, and frequency for each was requested.
The physician who had prescribed Nucynta confirmed it was a one-time fill that was subsequently discontinued. The team identified several additional discrepancies in the statements from the physicians and had the physicians document the medical records with a revised medication list that reflected what the injured worker was actually taking and expected to need going forward.
Removing Nucynta from the medication list reduced the projected amount of the MSA by more than $245,000. An additional $81, 204 was also eliminated, based on the physicians’ statements
The MSA went from $326,925 to $56,008 — a savings of $270,917 and, with no negative impact on the injured worker!
While the particular medication involved in this case was on the high-end of errors, the situation is all too familiar. Stakeholders often take information about current and future medications and treatments at face value, without delving into what is behind the numbers.
This case is typical in that a variety of physicians were involved, their records in many cases were incomplete, and there were medications included that had no bearing on the injured worker’s current, let alone future status.
Creating accurate MSAs takes time and skill. Those who undertake them need to ask questions and obtain all relevant information in order to come up with an amount that is fair to all sides.
Author Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center.
Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/
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