News and Analysis
This week, on a 74-22 vote, the Ohio House passed House Bill 308, legislation that would provide first responders with workers’ compensation benefits to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) even when there’s no physical injury. Under current Ohio law, only mental conditions stemming from on-the-job physical injuries/illnesses are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Due to the risk of substantial premium increases for employers, the OMA has long opposed any legislation that would permit PTSD compensation or other mental claims when there is no associated physical injury or illness. As the OMA noted in its “key vote alert” to House members, HB 308, if enacted, “will inevitably result in increased workers’ compensation costs for both public and private employers. The consequences of those cost increases will be felt across the Ohio economy and will negatively impact Ohio’s business climate.”
The bill now moves to the Senate, where Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) has already been quoted saying he supports the legislation. 2/13/2020
In state legislatures across the U.S., there’s growing support to provide workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), even if there’s no physical injury. But according to an insurance publication, in states where benefits have been expanded, things aren’t going as intended as the changes are leaving some first responders without care — and municipalities “struggling to cover the costs.”
In its story, Business Insurance quotes several experts, including one who said: “The cost is extraordinary. The reality is that a large number of these claims … are all heavily litigated or arbitrated, and a really high percentage of these claims are not readily paid.” 2/11/2020
February marks the peak of flu season. This year, flu concerns have been compounded with worries about the coronavirus. OMA Connections Partner Bricker & Eckler has published this guidance for employers seeking to maintain a healthy workforce during flu season and throughout the year. 2/12/2020
On Thursday, Feb. 20, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) will host a free, 15-minute webinar on its Policy Activity Rebate (PAR) program. This will be an opportunity to ask questions about PAR, which offers employers a range of activities to help them earn a 50% premium rebate (up to $2,000). Private employers have until Feb. 28 to apply for PAR, while employers already in the program have until May 31 to complete their premium-reducing activities. 2/11/2020
This week, the BWC was given approval by its board to spend $70 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 on grants for Ohio employers to improve workplace safety. Funded by employer premiums, the Safety Grants program has already reached its 2020 appropriation of $20 million. 2/12/2020
This week, the Senate continued to hold hearings on House Bill 81, legislation that would make several changes to Ohio’s workers’ compensation laws. Some of the changes HB 81 would make include:
- reducing the statute of limitations for violations of a specific safety rule (VSSR) from two years to one year;
- increasing the funeral expense benefit cap for inflation;
- changing rules for final claim settlement agreements;
- continuing jurisdiction changes; and
- clarifying the voluntary abandonment doctrine.
The Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee heard from a variety of witnesses, including the OMA, which provided proponent testimony. The bill is expected to receive further Senate consideration. 2/6/2020
The U.S. Department of Labor has produced this webpage to provide information to employers regarding the evolving coronavirus outbreak first identified in China.
The agency notes that there is no evidence of widespread transmission of the virus in the U.S. at this time. Still, it’s worthwhile for employers to review the site, including its information on hazard recognition, control and prevention, and OSHA standards as they apply to the virus. 2/6/2020
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has announced it’s proposing another rate cut to premiums paid by private employers. This one would be worth about $132 million — if OK’d by the BWC board on Feb. 28. It would reduce private employers’ rates by an average of 13% and take effect July 1. It would also mark the third cut in three years for private employers and the 11th since 2008.
This is a good thing for Ohio employers, as the drive toward actuarial principles has resulted in a competitive advantage for Ohio’s state-run monopoly workers’ comp system. 2/3/2020
The BWC has announced it wants to increase funding for its Safety Grants program for employers by $30 million over 2020 and 2021, bringing the total to $70 million. The grants — worth as much as $40,000 per employer — provide funds for training, wellness programs, and equipment intended to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illness.
The application deadline for safety grants awarded this fiscal year is March 31. Applications for FY2021 grants will be accepted starting July 1. 2/3/2020
Last month, a new Ohio workers’ compensation rule became effective with respect to the payment for treatment of concussion-related injuries. OMA Connections Partner Roetzel reports the BWC’s new rule means “medical treatment for head related injuries that are suspect or minimal in nature — and which would have likely not been approved for medical treatment related to a concussion diagnosis prior to the enactment of the new rule — will now most likely be treated with less scrutiny by the BWC and be authorized for medical treatment.” 2/3/2020