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Tennessee's Update to Voluntary Prescription Law Changes Requirements for Employers to Receive Insurance Premium Discounts

As of June 15, 2019, Tennessee passed HB 389 and SB 312 which adjusts the Tennessee voluntary prescription law. The updated statute allows employers to adopt drug testing practices that limits the timeframe for a prescription to six months within the date of an applicant or employee’s drug test. The optional provision states that a Medical Review Officer (MRO) who is reviewing a prescription following a confirmed positive drug test result can only consider a prescription that was issued in the previous six months as “valid”.  Typically, Tennessee’s voluntary laws closely align with the Department of Transportation (DOT) 49 CFR Part 40 (Part 40) which does not give a set length of time for MROs to determine a “valid” prescription when overturning a non-negative/positive test result. However, Tennessee strays from that pattern in the new law and the MRO’s standard takes another approach as outlined below.

How Is the New Voluntary Law Different?

Since the voluntary law only considers prescriptions that were issued within six months as “valid”, any prescription that was issued prior to six months will not be a valid reason for a non-negative/positive test result and the MRO will not overturn it. This differs from the DOT changes that went into effect January 1, 2018 that did not give MROs a set length of time to determine a “valid” prescription when overturning a positive drug test result. Under the DOT law, an MRO could overturn a positive drug test result based off of a prescription that was months or even years old. This change to the voluntary law eliminates the concern of an employee potentially abusing an old drug prescription, which could impair them while on the job.

What This Means for Employers

Employers who choose to abide by the voluntary law are eligible for a 5% discount on their workers’ compensation premium through their insurance provider. Therefore, the MRO who they contract with can only consider prescriptions written in the past six months as valid. For employers that do not wish to receive the benefits of the voluntary law, they are not required to comply, meaning that the MRO that they contract with (if they choose to contract with one) could consider a prescription written out of the six month time frame as valid and use it to overturn a non-negative/positive test result.

Medical Form Keyboard

Employers are not obligated to stay active or participate in the new option if they choose to change back, since it is voluntary. At any point in time, an employer could choose to opt out, regardless of when they opted in. However, opting out would mean that they are no longer eligible for the insurance premium discount, as well as the limited legal protections offered to those that choose to comply. Employers who wish to opt out have to let their insurance provider know immediately and in writing so they can discontinue the discount. Employers are under no obligation to finish out the month or year.

How DISA Can Help

DISA Global Solutions provides drug and alcohol testing services that can be customized to meet your industry standards. Depending on your state, laws may vary (such as those in Tennessee) when it comes to employment screening and it’s important for employers to know, understand, and properly implement them when required. Our drug testing methodologies include urine, oral fluid, hair, and alcohol testing for pre-employment, post-accident, Return-to-Duty, random, reasonable suspicion, and on-site testing. Our professionals at DISA can also help you customize your drug test panel to meet the needs of your business.


Helpful Links:

· Tennessee Senate Bill 312

· Tennessee House Bill 389

· DOT 49 CFR Part 40

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About DISA Global Solutions

For more than 30 years, DISA has been a provider of workplace safety and compliance services. DISA helps companies make more informed staffing decisions by offering a broad array of industry-leading methodologies to make employee screening faster and more accurate. For more information about DISA call 1-800-752-6432 or email sales@disa.com.