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Ohio Workers Compensation Reforms Proposed by Some Business Groups are Unnecessary

In the past decade business, labor & trial lawyers have worked on comprehensive legislation and overhaul of the Ohio workers compensation system. This cooperative effort has made Ohio one of the most effective, cost-efficient providers of workers compensation services in the country. Ohio is a shining model of how business, labor, and state government can work together to fairly treat those who are injured at work. Examples of the recent legislative and system overhaul have included:

  • Workers Compensation Subrogation
  • Intoxication Rebuttable Presumption Bill
  • Senate Bill 7 Omnibus Bill
    • included provisions reducing the length of a claim from 10 years to 5   years
    • modified definition of “aggravation” to “substantial aggravation” making it harder to prove claims
    • shortened number of weeks that an injured worker can receive non-working wage loss

These changes have resulted in some impressive results borne out by these statistics:

  • Last month the OH BWC reported net assets of $6 Billion of surplus in the trust fund (historical high point)
  • The OH BWC reported that payments issued to injured workers in July were the lowest total in the past 2 years
  • In fact, benefit payments in the last quarter are the lowest reported quarterly payment over the past four years.

Clearly, the bargain made by the stakeholders, and the resulting changes during the past decade have been effective from our own workers compensation system’s point of view.

Now let’s consider things from a national perspective. In previous posts I have clearly identified that Ohio ranks as one of the 7 largest states in covered workers and total workers compensation paid, yet in benefits paid per 100,000 workers we are considered in the lower tier of the “average” group (29th out of 50).

Yet, some of Ohio’s business stakeholders argue that we still need major changes to the system which would clearly be unfair to injured workers. These include :

  • Additional restrictions on the life of claims, as well as restrictions on specific types of injury recovery
  • Restrictions on procedural “due process” under the guise of controlling litigation costs
  • Further reform that would transfer the costs from the workers compensation system to other systems such as social security and Medicare.

Our next blog will speak to these specific issues, and how they are out of step with the underlying philosophy behind workers compensation, the facts established in substantial research, as well as the conclusions of independent national scholars, studies and commissions.

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