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General Assembly Passes a ‘Clean’ BWC Budget; PTSD Language is Removed

July 19, 2019

This week, the House and Senate finalized House Bill 80, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget. Last month, the General Assembly failed to pass the bill and instead approved a short-term funding solution, while the two chambers continued to negotiate on key differences.

Approved in early June, the House version of HB 80 was loaded with major policy changes that would have had detrimental impacts on the manufacturing community — including provisions to allow expanded PTSD coverage and benefits; changes to the settlement process; and new employee misclassification definitions.

The Senate eliminated the harmful House provisions in their version of HB 80. In the conference committee, the House and Senate agreed to the Senate version, while an amendment to include PTSD was defeated. The OMA worked to remove the harmful provisions to protect Ohio manufacturing. 7/17/2019

Deadline Approaching for Workers’ Comp ‘True-Up’

July 12, 2019

Private employers in Ohio have until Aug. 15 to complete their “true-up” reports, an important and necessary step that allows the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) to accurately calculate premiums.

The true-up process, which is simple to do at BWC’s “My Policy” page, requires employers to report their actual payroll for the previous policy year to reconcile any differences in premium paid. This action is critical to maintaining your policy and participation in current rating plans or discount programs. Employers must complete the true-up report even if their payroll for the year matches the estimate received from BWC.

If you have questions, contact Brian Jackson, managing director of OMA’s Workers’ Compensation Services — the only workers’ compensation service provider exclusively serving Ohio’s manufacturers. If you’re not already using the OMA for your workers’ comp. needs, you can easily request a service proposal here. 7/9/2019

PTSD Remains a Sticking Point in Delayed BWC Budget

July 2, 2019

The legislature failed to meet Sunday’s deadline for passing a final budget measure (House Bill 80) for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). As a result, lawmakers extended the BWC’s current funding for 30 days, after the House voted to not concur with the Senate amendments to the budget legislation.

The Senate-passed version of HB 80 contained none of the controversial provisions included by the House, such as employee misclassification language, expanded workers’ comp coverage for PTSD for first responders without a qualifying physical injury, and settlement provisions that would be harmful to manufacturers. House leadership has insisted on keeping the PTSD and misclassification provisions in the bill.

OMA members should contact their state senator and state representative — urging him/her to accept the Senate version of HB 80. Including the controversial PTSD language in the bill would create a fundamental shift in Ohio’s workers’ compensation law, which currently requires a physical injury before allowing any mental health claims. Most troubling, it would establish a precedent for future PTSD expansion to include private employers. If this happened, workers’ compensation premiums for Ohio manufacturers would increase dramatically. 7/1/2019

Workers’ Comp Board OKs $1.5B in Rebates for Employers

July 2, 2019

On Friday, the board of directors for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) approved $1.5 billion in rebates for approximately 180,000 private and public employers across the state. Employers should receive their rebate checks sometime this fall.

This latest rebate, proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine in May, represents roughly 88% of the premiums employers paid for the policy year that ended June 30, 2018. It marks the fifth time in the last six years that the system has returned at least $1 billion to employers due to favorable investment returns, fewer injury claims, and operational efficiencies.

“In total, BWC has saved employers nearly $10 billion in workers’ comp costs through dividends, credits, rate reductions and greater efficiencies since 2011,” according to the agency’s news release. 7/1/2019

Senate Passes Clean Workers’ Comp Budget Bill

June 28, 2019

This week, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed a stripped-down version of House Bill 80, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget bill. During the committee process, the Senate removed all controversial provisions added by the House, returning the bill to its appropriation roots. Among the items the Senate removed were an employee misclassification provision, expanded Workers’ Comp coverage for PTSD, and settlement provisions that were harmful to Ohio’s manufacturers.

The House has yet to vote on concurrence of the Senate amendments. If the House does not concur with the changes, a conference committee will be appointed and would face an extremely tight deadline to reach final approval by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, June 30.

Late Thursday, Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said the House would prepare a continuing budget resolution — a temporary funding measure — in case House and Senate conferees failed to reach a timely agreement on HB 80 and the mainline state budget (House Bill 166). 6/27/2019

OMA Testifies Against BWC Budget Bill

June 21, 2019

This week, the OMA testified as an opponent to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget bill (House Bill 80), appearing before the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee. The bill, as passed by the House, contains a variety of anti-business provisions, including the expansion of workers’ compensation benefits for mental or emotional impairment caused by PTSD for first responders — even in the absence of a physical injury. The Senate has indicated that a new substitute version of the bill will be adopted next week. HB 80 needs to be passed no later than June 30 to ensure continued funding for the BWC. 6/20/2019

Industrial Commission Budget Clears General Assembly

June 21, 2019

On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed House Bill 79, the Industrial Commission budget. Typically, the Industrial Commission budget is the least controversial of the state’s four budget bills — which also include the transportation, BWC, and main operating bills. This year was no exception as the bill moved through the House and Senate with zero opposition. HB 79 provides the operating funds for the Ohio Industrial Commission, which serves as the adjudicating body for employers and employees on disputed workers’ compensation claims. 6/20/2019

Questions Linger About PTSD Expansion as Senate Takes Up Workers’ Comp Budget

June 14, 2019

This week, the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee began its work on House Bill 80, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget.

As we reported last week, the House-passed version of HB 80 contains a variety of provisions that would be detrimental to Ohio’s business climate. This includes the expansion of workers’ comp benefits for mental or emotional impairment caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for first responders — even when there is no physical injury. Other harmful provisions include restricting an employer’s right to negotiate settlement terms; eliminating the current definition of an employee; and penalizing employers for accidentally misclassifying employees.

At this week’s Senate hearing, bill sponsor Rep. Scott Oelslager provided sponsor testimony and BWC Administrator Stephanie McCloud provided testimony on behalf the BWC. The bill is expected to have multiple hearings over the next week. The OMA and other business allies continue to oppose the bill based on the House’s harmful changes. 6/13/2019

Analysis: Citizenship Provision in Workers’ Comp Budget Could Result in ‘Unintended Consequences’

June 14, 2019

As previously reported, the Ohio House last week passed its version (House Bill 80) of the state’s workers’ compensation budget, but not before a controversial, immigration-related amendment was added at the last minute. The bill is now before the Senate for consideration.

The OMA’s Connections Partner Franz Ward has analyzed the citizenship provision in HB 80, which would “require injured workers to identify themselves as either a U.S. citizen, non-citizen authorized worker, or an illegal or unauthorized alien when filing a workers’ compensation claim in Ohio.”

According to the firm, “while the amendment does not go so far as to expressly prohibit illegal aliens from receiving workers’ compensation benefits, it does state that claimants who provide false information, including regarding their citizenship status, will be ineligible to receive such benefits and may be prosecuted for workers’ compensation fraud under Ohio law.”

Supporters say “the collected data will be useful in making future law and policy decisions going forward,” while critics worry the language will discourage injury claims by undocumented immigrants, thereby resulting “unintended consequences.” For example, one fear is that undocumented injured workers could “seek out medical treatment in emergency rooms without either health insurance or, due to this amendment, workers’ compensation coverage, resulting in unpaid medical bills and costs getting passed along to Ohio taxpayers and people with health insurance.” 6/11/2019

Free Safety Awareness Materials Now Available

June 14, 2019

June is National Safety Month — 30 days that have been designed to raise awareness about the leading causes of injury and death at work and elsewhere. To help raise awareness among your employees, the National Safety Council is offering free materials, including posters, tip sheets, articles, special offers, social graphics, and more. Visit the NSC website to receive these free safety-related items. 6/10/2019