The Ohio Chamber of Commerce recently testified in front of the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee in opposition to the House passed version of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget bill, House Bill 80.
The Chamber’s testimony focused on four substantial policy changes currently in the bill. The most notable change is coverage for a mental claim with no accompanying physical injury. Other harmful policy provisions include the prohibition on most employers from objecting to settlement offers once the claim is out of their experience, the essential prohibition on employer policies that utilize a worker’s sick leave in lieu of temporary total disability benefits and creating a new definition of employee for purposes of workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation and Ohio’s income tax.
Taken together, these policy provisions represent significant and fundamental changes to Ohio’s workers’ compensation system at a time when the system is working for both employers and injured workers. Over the last several years, BWC has reduced employer premiums – with a 20 percent cut coming on July 1st. The Bureau’s investment portfolio has also resulted in a strong net position which has enabled them to provide multiple billion-dollar rebates to employers. For the injured worker, claims continue to drop and medical only claims account for nearly 90 percent of all claims, which means employees are not missing work or paychecks due to an injury.
In preparing to testify, the Ohio Chamber met with key members and staff of the Senate and expressed our desire to see HB 80 return to the as-introduced version, which Governor DeWine rolled out on Valentine’s Day this year. Our testimony reiterated that goal and elaborated on how the legislature has reinforced throughout the years that workers’ compensation is designed to cover physical workplace injuries and only those mental claims that arise from a worker’s physical injury.
In addition to my testimony, Buz Minor, a member of the Chamber’s workers’ compensation committee, provided testimony on the legislative and judicial history of coverage for mental diagnoses within Ohio’s workers’ compensation system.
By law the BWC budget bill must be passed by June 30, so next week the Senate plans to accept a substitute bill, report the bill from committee and hold a floor vote. The Ohio Chamber appreciates the Senate’s open process and willingness to listen to our concerns, and we are hopeful the final version of the bill will not contain the harmful policy changes we opposed.