News and Analysis
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
This week, House Bill 308 — legislation to allow first responders to receive Ohio workers’ compensation benefits if diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — took one step closer to becoming law. If the bill is passed and signed, it would mark the first time Ohio would allow a mental claim without an accompanying physical injury. Currently, the Ohio workers’ compensation system prohibits so-called mental/mental claims.
The OMA, along with other business and local government groups, has long been opposed to any move towards mental/mental claims. In addition, the OMA has worked with numerous stakeholders to find alternative solutions to ensure that Ohio’s first responders receive treatment for PTSD. The House Ways and Means Committee pushed aside those alternative solutions during opponent testimony this week. It is expected that the committee and the full House will approve the bill yet this winter. 1/30/2020
On Wednesday, Jan. 29, the Ohio Senate held sponsor testimony on House Bill 81. As originally introduced, the bill would have provided corrections officers with workers’ compensation coverage when exposed to bodily fluids on the job. The House amended the bill to allow for several other new workers’ compensation provisions including: reducing the statute of limitations for violations of a specific safety rule (VSSR) from two years to one year; increasing funeral expenses; settlement changes; continuing jurisdiction changes; and clarifying the voluntary abandonment doctrine. Overall, the bill is a positive for manufacturers. 1/30/2020