FDA and CDC Recommend Resuming Use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine

In mid-April, the FDA and the CDC issued a joint statement on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, noting that six women experienced rare and severe blood clots after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

As of April 12, 2021, more than 6.8 million doses of this specific vaccine have been administered, making the occurrence of these blood clots rare. Out of an abundance of caution, the CDC and the FDA reviewed these cases, recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine.

The type of blood clot that developed across these women is cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), which was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). All six cases occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 49, six to 13 days after vaccination.

Treatment for this specific blood clot is different from typical treatment for blood clots. In most scenarios, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. However, for CVST, heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments may be required.

Following a thorough safety review, including two meetings of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the FDA and CDC determined that the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine should be resumed. The FDA and CDC are confident that the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19.

Current data shows that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh risks and that the chance of these blood clots occurring is very low.

Individuals who had already received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who experience severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks of getting this vaccine should contact their health care provider.

Tags: FDA, CDC, COVID-19, coronavirus, Johnson & Johnson, vaccine, blood clot

Making Telemedicine Work for Workers’ Comp

For some time now, telemedicine has held the promise of reducing costs for payers and improving access to care, first in general healthcare and then in workers’ comp. Until the unexpected – and unwelcome – arrival of COVID-19, this promise was largely unfulfilled. But the necessity of keeping people safe during a pandemic has accelerated the use of telemedicine across the board.

According to a recent study by McKinsey, consumer interest in telemedicine rose from 11% to 76% during the pandemic, 57% of healthcare providers said they viewed telemedicine more favorably, and 64% of providers are comfortable using telemedicine. In the course of just a few months, telemedicine physician visits rose 50-175x, depending on geography and type of practice.1


In workers’ comp, telemedicine also gained wider acceptance during the pandemic as many states relaxed restrictions regarding its use for injured worker patients.2 The types of changes made by the states (and CMS, which guides rules for some states) vary and include: allowing additional services to be delivered via tele technologies; relaxing provider licensing requirements; amending reimbursement rules (often reimbursing at the higher office visit rates to encourage telemedicine use); and allowing different modes of technology, such as audio-only calls.3

Many of the legal and regulatory changes regarding telemedicine are temporary, and it remains to be seen which will become permanent and where. Workers’ comp stakeholders had hopes of cost reduction through telemedicine, both indirectly by speeding recovery times with better access to care, and directly through lower provider fees for virtual visits. To encourage the use of telemedicine during the pandemic, many states have allowed in-office reimbursement rates for virtual visits, which eliminates the direct savings incentive and makes the reimbursement question an important one going forward.

Exactly which medical services can be effectively delivered through telemedicine is also yet to be determined. Currently, fewer than 100 medical services are approved for telemedicine by CMS, which is a small fraction of the 8,000+ services covered by Medicare and Medicaid.3 The number of medical services we commonly see in workers’ comp are much fewer and, while some services will always require that the provider and patient be physically together, a significant portion of injured worker care could potentially be delivered virtually.

Continue reading the article in full at RxInformer.

Tags: RxInformer, telemedicine, COVID-19, pandemic

Provider Choice Bills Introduced Across the Country

A growing legislative trend across the nation is the introduction of bills that would allow patients the freedom to select their primary healthcare provider for workers’ comp claims. While some states have long established such practices, this front has seen more activity since the beginning of the year.

In quick succession, Colorado, Kansas, Montana and Indiana have all introduced similar bills, each with unique stipulations and rules, and which are at different stages of the legislative process. While these bills have been passed in some states, as legislative sessions continue throughout the year it is possible that even more states will introduce bills such as these.

Colorado introduced Senate Bill 197, which would allow injured workers to select any doctor certified to operate within the state’s workers’ comp system. Current regulation in Colorado requires employers or carriers to provide workers with lists of medical providers to choose from, but this bill would let workers designate any Level I or Level II accredited physician as their treating doctor.

In Kansas, both House Bill 2312 and Senate Bill 203 would allow patients their choice of physician, requiring employers to pay for the services provided by the designated provider.

Montana House Bill 412 would restore a worker’s right to select their treating physician, but the proposal allows an insurer to direct the designation of the treating physician within a managed care or preferred provider organization.

Indiana House Bill 1339 would allow injured workers to choose the attending physician to treat their work-related injury or occupational illness. Patients who were injured prior to the passage of this bill would be allowed to select a new physician of their choice.

Tags: Provider choice, provider, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Indiana

Recreational Marijuana Legalization Blazes On

2021 has been a big year for the legalization of recreational marijuana. Three states so far have enacted legislative bills, and more could be on the horizon.

Virginia House Bill 2312 legalizes recreational marijuana use effective January 2024, upon which time regulated sales would begin. Regulation for the cultivation, manufacture, wholesale, and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products will be managed by a new entity known as the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. The bill eliminates criminal penalties for simple possession of marijuana, modifies several criminal penalties related to marijuana, and will provide automatic expungement for certain marijuana crimes by July 1, 2026.

New York Senate Bill S854A legalizes recreational marijuana and expunges previous marijuana convictions. Adults aged 21 and older will be able to purchase cannabis from authorized sellers, possess up to three ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate, and – 18 months after sales begin – grow up to six mature plants and six immature plants at home per household. This bill also creates the Office of Cannabis Management, an independent office extending from the State Liquor Authority. A 13% sales tax will be enforced on cannabis products.

Cities, towns, and villages may opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by December 31, 2021 or nine months after the effective date of the legislation. They cannot, however, opt-out of adult-use legalization.

New Mexico House Bill 2 will allow adults aged 21 and over to grow up to six plants of marijuana at home and possess up to two ounces of cannabis outside their homes starting June 29th, 2021. Recreational cannabis sales will begin on April 1, 2022 at state-licensed dispensaries, all of which will be overseen by the new Cannabis Control Division. A 12% tax will be placed on marijuana, rising to 18% over time.

Marijuana legalization continues to be a hot topic, and the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) listed the legalization of marijuana as a top legislative trend for 2021, noting that Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Nebraska are also considering recreational legalization.

With the passage of these laws, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, but that number may soon increase.

Tags: marijuana, legalization, recreational, New York, New Mexico, Virginia, NCCI

Developing and Advancing Meaningful Connection in a Virtual Work Environment

The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions’ (IAIABC) 2021 Forum will take place virtually from April 20-29th, hosting a series of presentations, discussion forums, and round tables to discuss policy and administrative issues in workers’ comp.

Perspective Live: Developing and Advancing Meaningful Connection in a Virtual Environment focuses on how the workspace has changed dramatically, causing organizations to implement new strategies to support, grow, and engage their employees. This panel discussion will share experiences and insights on creating happy, healthy, and productive employees across all work environments.

Healthesystems’ Employee Engagement Director, Heather Stempien, and AVP of Advocacy and Compliance, Sandy Shtab, are part of this panel presentation, and they will help attendees understand how lessons learned in the transition to remote work will shape how organizations recruit and retain employees in the future. They will be joined by Ron Dressler, Director of the Utah Labor Commission Division of Industrial Accidents, and Lynette Long of the AF Group.

This presentation takes place April 28th at 12:00 PM EDT and will be available to Forum registrants.

Learn more about the IAIABC Forum here.

Tags: Healthesystems, IAIABC, Heather Stempien, Sandy Shtab