Identifying Facts iamge

The current President has popularized the term “fake news.”  He has been accused by his opponents for relying on “alternative facts” which are not “facts” at all but rather hoped for beliefs.   PRI has established its “Pants on Fire Award” for “alternative fact” creators.

One of PRI’s favorite “alternative fact” creators is the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) (see PRI Archives for a series of articles on Illinois legislative activities in 2016-17 where IPI frequently appears).  The latest IPI “alternative fact” creation is its recommendation that Illinois should follow the Kentucky model in combating opioid abuse.  According to IPI (https://www.illinoispolicy.org/opioid-crisis-kentuckys-reforms-illinois-problems-and-overprescription-in-workers-comp/), Kentucky reformed its Workers’ Compensation Law in 2012 and opioid use has dropped dramatically citing studies by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI).

WCRI is another “alternative fact” creator which produces apparently unbiased reports to satisfy the legislative agenda of its insurance company members.  See PRI homepage and click on Insurance Funded Research for a discussion of the principal fallacy in WCRI studies discovered by the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission in 2015.  This “discovery” was one of the reasons for the creation of PRI.

In this case, both IPI and WCRI want readers to focus on part of the problem and not see the entire field.  Accordingly, they have both earned the “Pants on Fire” award for 2017.

Illinois has not done these Kentucky reforms and, so the argument goes, its opioid overdose problems are much worse.  But is this true?  The correct “fact” and the correct “answer” is NO.  Kentucky’s opioid problem is much worse according to the Federal Center For Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC reports that in, 2014–15, Kentucky’s overdose deaths increased 21.1 percent while Illinois’ increased 7.6 percent.  In 2015 Kentucky recorded 1,273 overdose deaths while Illinois recorded 1,835 deaths.  But the population of Illinois is 3x that of Kentucky.  So, on a population adjusted basis alone, Kentucky has twice the number of deaths as Illinois.

Could it be that the crackdown on opioids in the Kentucky workers’ compensation system resulted in individuals obtaining opioids in other ways?  There is no way to verify this “fact”, one way or the other.  But it is clear that the Kentucky overdose problem is substantially more serious than that of Illinois and that the Kentucky workers’ compensation “reform” may not have been an effective reform after all.