Wolf vetoes GOP bill to create guide for treatment of workplace injuries

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch

Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday vetoed Senate Bill 936, which would have created for the state a detailed list of medications that could be prescribed to injured workers known as a formulary.  

The bill was supported by Republicans, including state Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, who is running for governor. They said it would have been a way to impact the opioid crisis in the commonwealth. 

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during Our Fallen Brothers - A Celebration of Life public memorial service for York City fallen firefighters Ivan Flanscha, 50, and Zachary Anthony, 29, at Memorial Hall at the York County Fairgrounds in York City, Wednesday, March 28, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Wolf disagreed.

"Make no mistake, Senate Bill 936 is not a bill designed to fight the opioid crisis," Wolf said in a statement. "Senate Bill 936 threatens health care for millions of workers who could be injured on the job, including police, corrections officers and firefighters, who put their lives on the line every day, and whose injuries can be unique, debilitating and severe. It is wrong to sacrifice health care for our first responders to protect the bottom-line for insurance companies and corporations."

Wagner, in a statement, called it "disheartening" that Wolf was given a chance to protect Pennsylvanians from dying every day of addictions and vetoed it. He accused Wolf of pandering to special interest donors. 

"If the governor was really interested in combating the opioid epidemic, he would have stood up to those funding his campaign and signed this bill," Wagner said. "And if the governor's decision to veto this legislation was really based on policy, he needs to immediately return all his contributions to Fairness PA to prove to the people of Pennsylvania that he was not acting on the political action committee's behalf."

Dean Dominick, of KBG Injury Law, said he doesn't agree with a bill sitting on Gov. Tom Wolf's desk that would create a formulary for injured workers. (Jana Benscoter/photo)

Wagner voted for SB 936 in October, according to the statement, in which he highlights the fact that the Fairness PA PAC — a PAC of trial lawyers — gave Wolf $1 million in the second half of 2017 and $100,000 so far in 2018. 

According to Senate Bill 936, the state Department of Labor and Industry would have been tasked with selecting a "nationally recognized, evidence-based prescription drug formulary," a fixed guide used to decide treatment for work-related injuries, "including, but not limited to, the type, dosage and duration of prescriptions."

State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, who spearheaded the bill, said he thought it would lower costs and provide better care for patients by removing "the profit incentive from prescribing practices."

Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, spearheaded legislation that would create a drug formulary in Pennsylvania.

“The basic goal of our Workers’ Compensation system should be getting injured workers healthy and ready to rejoin the workforce," White said. 

Opposition: Dean Dominick, of York-based KBG Injury Law, said he didn't agree with the bill's limitations. 

"The reason behind the bill was the opioid crisis," Dominick said. "And also a very small minority of workers' compensation claimants attorneys, those that represent injured workers, opened their own pharmacies and were directing their injured workers to those pharmacies."

Dominick said KBG has "never had such an arrangement and never will." 

He suggested, instead, the Legislature punish those specific arrangements yet still allow doctors to treat injured workers as they see fit. 

"There were some overprescribing of opioids and other high-cost medications," Dominick said. 

Wolf said he could not support rationing health care "for millions of workers should they be injured while at work."

"My administration has outlined a number of executive and legislative actions that can be taken immediately to address the rising misuse and overprescribing of opioids in the health care system, including Workers’ Compensation. Implementing those actions is my top priority," Wolf said.