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A4 Thursday, June 7, 2012

OPINION

Drug abuse a hot topic in workers’ compensation talks

The Workers’ Compensation Administration is suggesting yet another attempt to change the statutory language relating to workers who get injured while using drugs or alcohol. Meanwhile, the workers’ compensation community is mor e and more concerned about workers who get addicted to drugs as a result of their injuries. The question of whether benefits should be barred for workers who were intoxicated has been a political hot potato for decades. The public is outraged when a worker who got hurt while drunk or stoned gets workers’ compensation benefits. Prior to the 1990 reform, the law said that if drugs or alcohol were the sole cause of the accident, the claim could be thrown out, but ther e was no consequence if intoxication was a partial factor. The 1990 Workers’ Compensa-

EDITORIAL

MERILEE

DANNEMANN TRIPLE SPACED

tion T ask Force, which overhauled the statute, battled over the issue but could not reach agreement. Labor leaders argued that a worker’s family should not suffer because the worker made a mistake. The task force left the old provision in place and created a follow-up task force, which struggled valiantly and arrived at a recommendation that nobody else liked, so it was never even introduced in legislation. In 2001, an amendment was enacted that was supposed to say that if drug or alcohol use

was a partial factor, the worker would lose 10 percent of benefits. The bill came from the Gov. Gary Johnson-era Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council. Their intention was to base the penalty simply on evidence of use of drugs or alcohol, with no need to prove causation. On its way thr ough the process, the language was badly garbled. The enacted language led to a confusing standard of partial causation and lots of litigation. It has been a problem ever since. At a recent meeting, the WCA suggested to a new Advisory Council that this should be revisited. Meanwhile, the industry is deeply worried that injur ed workers are tur ning into pill addicts in record numbers. It was on everyone’s lips at the recent annual conference of the New Mexico Workers’ Compensa-

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tion Association. Drug testing has long been a part of the system. As a sign of the times, the testing companies are offering tests for new kinds of deviant behavior. When a workers’ compensation patient has a prescribed dose of opioid painkillers, they can test that the patient is not supplementing that dose with cocaine, other prescription meds, or anything else. They can also make sure that the patient is taking the prescribed dose and not less — in other words, that he’s not selling his pills on the street. Medical evidence shows that non-addictive, less expensive drugs like Tylenol are often just as effective, but claims adjusters complain that they can’t stop doctors from writing prescriptions for opioids. The talk in the conference hallway is that doctors ar e lazy, or maybe the

patients demand these pills and doctors comply because it’s easier than spending time educating patients about the risks of addiction. I argue that maybe it’s because the fee schedule doesn’t pay the docs to spend time doing this. The workers’ compensation system can’t afford to push doctors around. It is said to be harder than ever to find doctors willing to take workers’ compensation cases. The drug issue is just part of the problem. Doctors can’t stand the extra paperwork, long delays for insurance approvals, and the threat of having to testify in litigation. It’s as if we hadn’t had 22 years since our famous big r efor m to figur e out how to make the physician’s role in this difficult system less frustrating. Contact Merilee Dannemann at www.triplespacedagain.com. © New Mexico News Services 2012

Space race goes commercial

Chin up, space buffs. Stop mourning the end of America’s shuttle program and start celebrating the beginning of the next great adventure — a for-profit space race led by young entrepreneurs who want to hurl rockets skyward more efficiently than the federal government ever did. Last week, a capsule built by the private company SpaceX was launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral and later docked with the International Space Station, where its cargo of supplies was unloaded. The capsule, called Dragon, was packed with science gear and sent home for a splashdown in the Pacific. SpaceX is short for Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Its boss is billionaire Elon Musk, who’s 40. The average age of its employees is 30. And they’ve made history. “Although cargo hauls have become routine,” The Associated Press reported after the Dragon docked with the space station, “Friday’s linkup was significant in that an individual company pulled it off. That chore was previously reserved for a small, elite group of government agencies.” In fact, SpaceX could be a blessing for those formerly “elite” agencies. The company is contracted to make a dozen delivery runs. In three or four years, it could start ferrying astronauts into orbit so they won’t have to keep flying with the Russians. Meanwhile, other private companies are designing and testing spacecraft, hoping to go into business with orbital supply flights and even space tourism. NASA is encouraging these ventures — it gave $381 million in seed money, for instance, to SpaceX — while setting its own sights higher, on future trips to the asteroids and Mars. The romanticism of space exploration never ended. But from this point forward, it will be shared by private firms whose CEOs and investors believe they can make money in orbit. Guest Editorial The Northwest Florida Daily News

TODAY IN HISTORY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Today is Thursday, June 7, the 159th day of 2012. There are 207 days left in the year. Today’s Highlights On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy, a “Creole of color,” was arrested and fined for refusing to leave a whites-only car of the East Louisiana Railroad; his case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which at the time upheld “separate but equal” racial segregation, a concept overturned in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education. On this date In 1654, King Louis XIV, age 15, was crowned in Rheims, 11 years after the start of his reign. In 1712, Pennsylvania’s colonial assembly voted to ban the further importation of slaves. DEAR DOCTOR K: What could be causing my chronic laryngitis? And what can I do about it? DEAR READER: Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx — the “voice box” that contains the vocal cords. The condition is called chronic laryngitis when hoarseness, the most common symptom, lasts for at least two weeks. Chronic laryngitis isn’t caused by infection. Among adults, the most common causes of chronic laryngitis are: — Voice abuse or misuse: Talking too much or too loudly. — Smoking. — Drinking alcohol heavily. — Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Stomach acids flow backward (reflux) into the esophagus and throat, irritating the vocal

Uncertainty creates economic paralysis

JOHN STOSSEL CREATORS SYNDICATE

President Obama would do us all a big favor if he’d ask himself this: “Would I start or expand a business without knowing what regulations or taxes government will impose next year?” If he’d just stop and ask that, he’d have a sense of what’s wrong with the economy. He’d understand why a country that must create 120,000 new jobs each month just to absorb newcomers created only 69,000 last month. Past recoveries were quicker. Something is dif ferent.

Doonesbury

ASK DR. K UNITED MEDIA SYNDICATE

cords. — Work-related exposure to chemicals or dusts that irritate the vocal cords. To figure out what’s causing your chronic laryngitis, your doctor will review your symptoms. Then he or she will ask about the risk factors above. Your doctor will ask for a list of all medications you take. Some

What could it be? Let’s remember that the economy — which is to say, us — is already burdened by byzantine bureaucratic impositions. Every week, the feds add another thousand pages of rules and proposals for rules. Local governments add their own. My mayor, in New York City, even proposes micromanaging the size of the drinks restaurants may sell. On top of the existing mountain of red tape, the Obama administration has piled on more, with more to come. Obamacare was less a specific prescription than a license for the Department of

medications, including antihistamines and cough suppressants, can cause hoarseness. Your doctor will examine your mouth, throat, nose, ears and the lymph nodes in your neck. He or she will carefully examine your larynx. Additional tests may check for acid reflux. Hoarseness that doesn’t go away or keeps coming back can be a symptom of certain cancers. Cancer of the vocal cords can occur. Also, sometimes an enlarging lung cancer can pinch the nerve that controls the muscles of the vocal cords. When my patients have a hoarseness that persists, I send them to an ear, nose and throat specialist. That specialist has special equipment that lets him see the vocal cords directly. Cancer

Health and Human Services to write new rules, lots of which are yet to be written. No one knows how the bureaucrats will micromanage health insurance. Then there’s Dodd-Frank, the 2,300-page revamp of finance industry regulation. Again, the bill left the rulewriting to regulatory agencies. Who knows what they will come up with? Every year, Congress makes thousands of changes to tax laws. And no one can guess what will happen in 2013 if the 2001 and 2003 rate cuts expire. There is an irresistible

still is quite unusual. More often, the specialist sees that the vocal cords have been irritated by cigarette smoke, stomach acid or something in the air the person breathes. No matter the cause, always stay well hydrated to help keep your vocal cords moist. And use a humidifier at home. If your chronic laryngitis is due to irritation, then it will improve if you reduce your exposure to whatever substance is affecting your vocal cords. If your condition is due to voice overuse, avoid long bouts of shouting or uninterrupted talking. Also consider voice therapy, which teaches you to speak in ways that won’t injure your vocal cords. See DR. K, Page A5

temptation for politicians to “do something” whenever real or imagined problems appear. The number of on-the-fly programs in recent years (from attacks on unpaid internships to Cash for Clunkers) has been astounding. This uncertainty kills job creation. If you cannot tell what will happen next week, next month, next year, why make a significant commitment? The next law or executive order might make a mockery of your plans. America faces a humongous debt, and its trajectory is upward. If nothing changes,

See STOSSEL, Page A5

25 YEARS AGO

June 7, 1987 • Air Force Senior Airman Dawn Osbur n, daughter of Lamar Osburn and stepdaughter of Mimi Osburn of Ruidoso, has been named Outstanding Airman of the Quarter. Osburn is an information systems operations specialist with the 213th Infor mation Systems Squadron. The selection was based on her exemplary duty performance, job knowledge, leadership qualities and self improvement. She is a 1982 graduate of Ruidoso High School.

06-07-12 rdr news  
06-07-12 rdr news  

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