It has been a long and windy road but House Bill 27, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget, has passed the Ohio House. This bill contains the two-year budget for the BWC—whose request was flat from their last budget—but also contains numerous policy issues impacting workers’ compensation. A number of these policy changes will positively impact both businesses and the system as a whole.
Namely, the bill includes a key provision supported by the Ohio Chamber changing the timeframe to file a workers’ compensation claim from two years to one year. Early reporting of injuries leads to faster treatment and better outcomes for all of the parties involved. Though most claims are already filed within the one-year period, it is an important change because those claims filed later can be very problematic to substantiate or disprove because memories fade and other employees may have moved on. The change will increase efficiency and lead to greater predictability in the workers’ compensation setting. An amendment was offered by Democrats in committee and on the floor to strip this provision from the bill but was promptly tabled along a party line vote.
Other important provisions of the bill include:
- Revising the drug testing section to, in part, reference federal Department of Transportation testing thresholds to which the rebuttable presumption that an employee was under the influence at the time of an injury applies.
- Make changes to how and whether the BWC can dismiss applications for permanent partial disability, C-92 claims, if an employee fails to attend a scheduled medical examination. This will allow the BWC to dismiss more than 20,000 suspended claims that are currently open due to a pending application because the BWC has no way to dismiss them. Most of these claims have been inactive for more than 10 years.
- Extends the time to appeal an Industrial Commission order from 60 days to 150 days if a party provides notice of intent to settle a claim and the opposing party does not object.
- Requires the administrator to adopt a rule allowing an employer who settles a claim to participate in the Handicap Reimbursement Program.
- Prohibits compensation or benefits from being paid to a deceased employee’s dependent while the dependent is incarcerated.
- A full summary of the legislation can be found here.
Now that the bill has passed the full House, it will move over to the Senate for continued deliberation. The Ohio Chamber will be monitoring the bill and working to ensure the important business related aspects are kept intact.