Tag Archives: genetic testing

Health Care Testing: A New Frontier for Worker’s Comp

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

As a worker’s compensation lawyer, I see many news stories through the prism of how the news event or trend will affect injured workers in the worker’s compensation system. A federal judge in Minnesota has ruled that Honeywell, Inc. can begin penalizing workers who refuse to take medical or biometric tests. 

The EEOC had claimed Honeywell’s policy violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. They filed a lawsuit in Minneapolis on behalf of two Minnesota employees of Honeywell.

The tests Honeywell required their employees to take measured blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose, as well as signs that employee had been smoking. Employees who declined to take the test could be fined up to $4,000 in surcharges and increased health costs. Honeywell said the program is designed to “encourage employees to live healthier lifestyles and to lower health care costs.” Honeywell says the testing promotes employee well-being. Management also indicated “We don’t believe it’s fair to the employees who do work to lead healthier lifestyles to subsidize the healthcare premiums for those who do not.”

The ramifications of such testing for worker’s compensation immediately come to mind. In any kind of an occupational exposure claim, such tests could be used to help deny worker’s compensation claims for employees who smoke, are overweight, have diabetic condition, claims involving occupational back conditions, carpal tunnel claims, and any kind of respiratory complaints. Another “slippery slope” may be the use of these kinds of testing to actually screen prospective employees, since the employer rationale would be that hiring folks with those pre-existing conditions would cost the employer more money.

Genetic Testing and Pain Medication

A former volunteer firefighter who sustained burns and partial amputation of his fingers on both hands continues to suffer from PTSD, flashbacks and sleep disturbances. His pain management physician has ordered a genetic study to help understand how he reacts to treatment based on his genetic factors.

Genetic testing in pain management is becoming more prevalent. Just as people have differences in hair color and eye color, people are also different in their responses to pain and to medications. Modern genetic medicine may be a viable way to explain the variability of personal responses to medication and predict more effective medications for patients. In identifying genetic risks and the most effective analgesic for individual patients, clinicians may be able to improve the efficacy of medication and decrease risks posed by medications, such as overdose, addiction and death. Another consideration for bioscience testing is the potential economic feasibility. Using oral samples or swabs could provide a dramatic price decrease for genetic testing.

One doctor provided the following tips to clinicians prescribing medications:

(1)    take the medication history of prior adverse or ineffective medication effects;

(2)    check for common potential interactions with opioids;

(3)    with new medications, check the patient’s metabolic pathway for activation or excretion issues;

(4)    be mindful of and evaluate potential interactions between drugs when adding new medications;

(5)    consider formal genetic testing to evaluate opioid choices and help predict potential opioid risks.