The Ohio Senate this week has largely restored the BWC budget bill, HB 80, to the as-introduced version of the bill. In doing so, the Senate removed provisions that would have been harmful to employers and Ohio’s workers’ compensation system.
The Ohio Chamber and other business groups advocated for a restoration of the BWC budget to the as-introduced version because we believed the budget bill was the wrong vehicle to make fundamental and irreversible changes to Ohio’s workers’ compensation law. The most publicized provision that the Senate removed would have changed the definition of injury for the purposes of workers’ compensation to include a purely mental diagnosis. That change ignores over 100 years of precedent in Ohio’s workers’ compensation law – which has since its inception in 1912 – has always required a physical harm before there is coverage.
However, this fundamental change was not the only detrimental aspect of the House passed version of the BWC budget bill. Thanks to the Ohio Senate, employers will continue to have a say in all settlement proceedings and the ability to enact policies that prevent the overpayment of benefits. Also, the definition of an employee will remain unchanged. A previous blog I wrote highlights these detrimental changes in more detail.
Despite the positive steps the Senate took there is still an opportunity for these harmful provisions to return in the bill because the House has signaled that they will seek a conference committee to negotiate with the Senate. In conference committee, the two legislative bodies will negotiate over the differences in the bill until they reach an agreement on a single version.
Additionally, this debate on the workers’ compensation budget is taking place while two other highly contested pieces of legislation are being considered – HB 6 and HB 166.
The June 30 deadline to pass the BWC budget is looming as well, so stay tuned, because we expect to see a final resolution or interim budget to be passed over the weekend.