In front of the Ohio House Insurance Committee, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce provided opponent testimony on House Bill 308. The legislation would upend over 100 years of workers’ compensation law by providing time off payments and medical benefits for a purely mental injury.
Under House Bill 308, first responders – peace officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians – could seek workers’ compensation benefits when diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
The Ohio Chamber supports providing these first responders with the treatment they deserve since their job duties consistently put them in traumatic and stressful situations. However, we also believe the physical injury requirement is the foundation of the state’s workers’ compensation system, so we have consistently pushed back against legislation that seeks to remove that requirement.
We oppose House Bill 308 because it would remove that physical injury requirement and allow a purely mental condition to be covered under workers’ compensation for the first time in history.
Removing the physical injury requirement is problematic to the Ohio Chamber for a multitude of reasons. First, requiring a physical injury is the best way to assure that only workplace injuries are compensated through workers’ compensation since in most instances it is easy to determine when a physical injury occurred. Likewise, without a physical injury requirement, the stability of our workers’ compensation system is put at risk, and employer rate cuts and rebates would be jeopardized.
In addition to our concerns about removing the physical injury requirement, we believe that the enactment of House Bill 308 would put pressure on the workers’ compensation system to cover other types of mental diagnoses for other classes of employees. These two slippery slopes are quite real because proponents of House Bill 308 have stated in public testimony they believe other employees such as bank tellers and emergency room physicians should also have workers’ compensation benefits available to them to treat PTSD. Also, it is foreseeable that if PTSD treatments are covered, then other mental diagnoses like depression and anxiety will soon be covered too.
A workers’ compensation system that is treating all mental diagnoses for all classes of employees’ harms Ohio’s economic competitiveness because employers will pay for the added costs of this coverage through higher workers’ compensation premiums.
In Ohio, workers’ compensation should remain a system that compensates physical workplace injuries and only mental injuries that are traceable to a physical harm. Like our testimony said, we urge Ohio’s General Assembly to reject House Bill 308 and instead find an alternative policy solution to provide first responders with treatment for PTSD.
In the absence of such a proposal, the Ohio Chamber will continue opposing legislation we believe will ultimately result in a workers’ compensation system that is less stable and less competitive.