Today’s Epidemic and the Need for Workers Comp Reform

Member Group : Susquehanna Valley Center

Governor Corbett shined a light on a very serious issue affecting businesses across the state of Pennsylvania. In a recent interview with, Governor Corbett commented that many of the unemployed are unemployable because they cannot pass a drug test.

Governor Corbett is already feeling the backlash from this honest statement, but the reality is that many business owners struggle with this problem daily. There is an epidemic in the United States now, and it is the drug epidemic. This epidemic is fueled by the Workers Compensation system, which overprescribes prescription drugs, which then may be abused by the person receiving the prescription or may be sold if there are leftovers from the prescription.

This system has affected many of the businesses in our country. I agree with Governor Corbett’s statement on the unemployed in Pennsylvania, mainly because I am one of the many PA business owners who have been saying this for the last several years. I would go on to say that 25% of the unemployed in this country are unemployable. Many cannot pass drug tests, lack the drive and work ethic to get out of bed in the morning, or no longer have the self-confidence needed to get a job after being unemployed for so long. The continuous extension of unemployment benefits has caused many people to not seek employment but enjoy their "paid time off" instead.

Don’t believe me? Here are some examples:

On average, 15% of the candidates that we interview at our company for entry level positions go on to then fail their pre-hire drug tests. This does not include the candidates that we ask to voluntarily leave a group interview if they know for a fact they cannot pass a drug test.

Even if someone does pass a drug test and we offer them a job, a common answer is "I make more on unemployment." We even had one person make the statement that he was just going to live off of his unemployment until after hunting season and then he would come back and interview for the position again if it was still open.

On any given day our company faces 5-8% of our operations employees just not showing up for work. As we like to say, "They can’t find their work boots in the morning." These are unscheduled absences that affect every other employee’s day because they do not wake up in time to come to work, just do not want to work, or are sick and cannot come in.

Here is an example of how the current system facilitates drug dependency.

Last year, one of our employees cut himself on a broken storm window while loading it into a garbage truck. The laceration required emergency medical attention and he was treated at a hospital in Harrisburg. He was stitched up and prescribed a 30 day supply of Percocet. He followed up with medical care at a local orthopedic group. Three weeks after his injury took place, on the same day he was given permission to return back to full duty at work, he was also given another prescription for more Percocet. Are you kidding me?

To all politicians in Harrisburg and the Democratic candidates running for Governor: it is time to wake up to the issues. Many Pennsylvania businesses are struggling due to the failure of systems that we already have in place. Unless you have experience running a business in today’s rough economy, do not make statements as to whether Governor Corbett’s comments are true or false. I suggest you ask a business owner since we are the ones dealing with the ramifications of the drug epidemic on a daily basis.

As for Governor Corbett, I have a common sense solution for you: Pass Workers’ Compensation Reform. The current Workers Compensation system stifles businesses by draining their funds to take care of worker injuries. While this is happening, the doctors are overprescribing drugs for these injuries, resulting in drug abuse and illegal reselling of the prescription drugs. It is time to reform this system to help the businesses in Pennsylvania, not cripple them more.
Scott Wagner is owner of Penn Waste and is a Board member of The Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy.
Nothing should be considered as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation before the General Assembly.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Susquehanna Valley Center.