Changes to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

In the past year, the Ohio General Assembly has focused on many important issues affecting Ohioans across the state. From job creation to health care and education, we have worked to better the government services that are entitled to you as a resident of Ohio. One important area that the House has focused on is the protection of injured workers. In the past year, many positive changes have been made to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, ensuring that employees receive the security they need and companies are able to operate with stability.

Most recently, a pharmacy lock-in program has been instituted to limit the misuse of medications by those injured in the workplace. This program will deal with the issue of doctor shopping, limiting the ability to obtain prescriptions from more than one physician and pharmacy in certain cases. The BWC is responsible for the smooth reintegration of recovered workers back into the workplace, and this objective is impaired when injured employees begin to misuse and abuse their prescriptions. With the new pharmacy lock-in program, this danger will be dealt with head on.

The Grow Ohio Program is another new initiative aimed at stimulating economic advancement. New employers will have the opportunity to decrease their workers’ compensation premiums by up to 53 percent by choosing one of two options. The first choice allows these employers to take a 25 percent premium discount over the course of two years. As an alternative, they can skip this waiting period and immediately join a group rating program, lowering their premiums by up to 53 percent up front.

Businesses also now have the incentive to create worker safety plans. Destination: Excellence is a new rating plan that rewards companies for establishing a risk management plan focusing on prevention, safety and getting injured workers back on the job more quickly. The overall goal of this plan is the improvement of return-to-work rates. Additionally, Destination: Excellence gives employers some flexibility by offering seven different program options.

To promote the general well-being of employees, the BWC has created the Wellness Grant Program. This $4-million, four-year initiative gives businesses up to $15,000 to create worker wellness programs. In this day and age, employers are faced with the reality of the rising prevalence of chronic disease and obesity, as well as an aging workforce. These developments all contribute to the incidence of workplace injuries and the slower recovery of injured employees. Worker wellness programs will help employers deal with these new challenges.

The BWC has also implemented reforms in other areas. By reducing average base rates by 4 percent, the BWC will save private employers $65 million in premiums. In addition, local governments will save $22 million yearly through a 5 percent reduction on public employer rates. Finally, by reducing their budget by 12 percent over the next biennium, the BWC will save $80 million.

It is crucial that an agency as important as the BWC function in an efficient and effective way. Through the implementation of these new changes, the bureau will be able to better serve Ohio’s employees, as well as our businesses. In 2012, the House plans to devote more time and energy to further reform the BWC, ensuring that injured workers’ are protected and tax dollars are spent wisely.

Nan Baker

State Representative 16th Ohio House District

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Volume 4, Issue 4, Posted 2:37 PM, 02.21.2012