Home > Uncategorized > $98 Million on CA WC Drug Testing in 2011

$98 Million on CA WC Drug Testing in 2011

While a bright-eyed young undergraduate student, your humble blogger was in a small car collision and experienced some mild stiffness in his neck.  Upon seeing a doctor, he was quickly prescribed enough drugs to knock out a medium-sized elephant for the mild and quickly fading pain.  Your humble blogger was shocked at how casually heavy medication was given out.  Naturally, his more cynical friends suggested filling the prescription and sharing it with them to fuel their philosophy, art history, and political science term papers.  What radical thoughts were denied to the world by this blogger’s ethical conduct!

Why am I sharing with you the story of how I avoided a life of drug-dealing to instead enter the even less-admired profession of lawyering (and blogging)?

The good folks at the California Workers’ Compensation Institute have released a new report based on research into drug testing and its costs since 2004.  Drug testing in workers’ compensation is on the rise for two reasons – the first is to ensure that applicants are taking the drugs they are prescribed (instead of selling it on the street as your goody-two-shoes blogger was encouraged to do); and the second it to make sure that applicants are not re-injuring themselves while under the influence of non-prescribed drugs.

Much like Utilization Review, the use of drug testing services has mushroomed into a quickly booming industry.  CWCI’s study shows a usage growth from 4,012 in 2004 to 186,023 in 2011 (an increase of 4,537%.)  The cost of each drug test has also increased from $36 in 2004 to $148 in 2011.  California is estimated to have spent $98 million on workers’ compensation drug testing in 2011.

Are you doing drug testing for applicants?  Aside from its expense in implementation, you may also be paying the price in effectiveness.  For example, is the drug test based on a urine sample?  Is the applicant monitored while he or she gives the sample?  Is there room for “gaming” the system?  Granted, your humble blogger may have seen one too many crime dramas, but if you’re not asking these questions of your drug-test vendor, aren’t you just paying for a middle-man between the applicant and the plumbing?

$98 million is a lot of money – hopefully it was well spent.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Steve Cattolica
    May 24, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Greg, your comparison of drug testing and utilization review is very interesting. For both activities, your closing remark is right on point…is it money well spent?

    • May 25, 2012 at 8:29 am


      I think it really boils down to the nitty-gritty details. Labels such as UR and Drug Testing and even “Esq.” are all very comforting but each adjuster and workers’ compensation program manager needs to look at whether the particular entity is being effective.

      Some UR outfits will rubber-stamp approval on every medical report that comes on. Some attorneys will cough up maximum settlement authority on the first round of discussions. And I’m sure some drug testing facilities area only there to create the appearance or propriety and don’t bother to do controls to create effective tests.

      You really need to smell the fish before you buy it.

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