Pandemic delayed federal comp claims: Report

The U.S. Office of Inspector General reported that the COVID-19 pandemic delayed adjudication of federal workers compensation claims and that changes to the federal opioid management rules did not increase use of narcotic painkillers.

The Office of Workers’ Compensation Program received 2,866 claims for COVID-19 in the first five months following the declaration of a national public health emergency, OIG said.

“As a result of this influx, OWCP’s Federal Employees’ Compensation Program anticipated a potential strain on resources and claims processing delays,” a report summary from the Inspector General’s Office reads. “As part of its response, FECA developed a contingency plan, which included reallocating resources from opioid management to COVID-19 claims adjudication.”

OIG said its analysis of case management and medical billing data from December 2018 to March 2021 found timeliness of adjudicating claims fell by 15% during the audit period.

“The decline was primarily driven by COVID-19 claims, which took longer to adjudicate than other claims,” the summary reads.

While FECA was able to improve claim adjudication timeliness, 46% of COVID-19 claims remained open as of March 31.

“We also found that changes FECA made to opioid management in response to the pandemic have not negatively impacted opioid use among claimants; overall, opioid use continued to decline,” OIG said in its summary. “For example, we found the numbers of claimants receiving opioid prescriptions and claimant morphine-equivalent dose levels both continued the downward trends throughout the audit period.”

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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