Last month, during our 2021 Policy Conference at Salt Fork State Park, the Ohio Chamber released its updated Fall 2021 Legislative Agenda. The list includes ten major policy initiatives we are prioritizing for the remainder of the year.

Last week was a good week for our Top Ten. Senate Bill 1 (#10 on the list), which ensures that students will be equipped with an adequate level of financial literacy upon graduation, was finalized by the Senate and awaits Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature before becoming law.

Also, bills that address two other priorities were formally introduced, and both were referred to committees today so that lawmakers can begin deliberations on them. House Bill 443, introduced by Rep. Kyle Koehler with seven co-sponsors, would provide employers a tax credit to offset the cost of health insurance mandates (#7 on the list). It was referred to the House Ways & Means Committee.

In 2019, the Ohio Department of Insurance released the results of an actuarial study on the costs of all health care mandates under state law – 17 in total – that apply to individual and group insurance plans. These are the health insurance plans that many Ohio Chamber member companies purchase and offer to their employees and their families.

The study concluded that health insurance premiums are as much as 1.3% higher in the small group market and 1.4% higher in the large group market due to these state-imposed health insurance mandates. With health care costs perennially a major concern for employers, particularly small employers, and with annual health insurance premiums typically rising at a rate greater than inflation, state mandates are especially problematic. HB 443 recognizes how these state mandates have contributed to rising health insurance premiums and seeks to rectify this by providing employers with a refundable tax credit to offset the costs of mandates.

Rep. Brian Lampton, joined by four other representatives, is the lead sponsor of HB 447. HB 447 seeks to codify when work-from-home injuries are compensable under workers’ compensation (#5 on the list). It will be considered by the House Insurance Committee.

Last year, when COVID hit, many employees were unable to come to the office and were forced to work remotely. Still, more than 18 months later, many companies have yet to bring employees back to the office and, due to the recent increase in COVID transmission rates due primarily to the Delta variant, many have extended their remote work policies indefinitely. Most of these workers had either never or rarely worked from home before the pandemic.

From an employer’s perspective, the shift to remote work has come with many challenges. One of the concerns involves the safety of the home environment and workers’ compensation insurance. HB 447 is a common-sense bill that clarifies that potential hazards that are more likely to be present in a work-from-home environment compared to a typical office environment – such as tripping over the family pet or a child’s toys – are not injuries considered compensable for the purposes of workers’ compensation.

To ensure these two newly-introduced bills, along with the other seven remaining priorities, advance, legislators need to hear from you about how these bills would benefit your business. If you’re willing to contact your legislator to discuss these bills, please let us know and we’ll be happy to assist.