On Wednesday, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed House Bill 81 (HB 81) by a vote of 32-0. The bill, a priority piece of legislation for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, benefits employers across the state by making several reforms to the state’s workers’ compensation system.
The legislation will bring more uniformity to Ohio’s workers’ compensation law by amending the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and the Industrial Commission’s five year continuing jurisdiction so that it begins on the date of an employee’s last medical treatment rather than using the date of payment for the last medical treatment as the trigger for commencing the continuing jurisdiction. This change brings uniformity to closing workers’ compensation claims and benefits Ohio employers because the commencement of the continuing jurisdiction is no longer dependent upon the varying billing practices of medical providers.
HB 81 also makes changes to the statute of limitation for filing VSSR claims, which are claims alleging a violation of a specific safety statute. Under current law, claimants have two years to file a VSSR claim, but only one year to file their injury claim. This mismatch in statute of limitations leaves employers susceptible to surprise VSSR claims which can complicate claims management processes and settlement discussions. Aligning these statutes of limitations benefits employers in the Buckeye State by preventing unneeded complications and encouraging claimants to file all their claims at the same time.
Another important aspect of HB 81 is the codification of the voluntary abandonment doctrine. This common law doctrine assures that workers’ compensation benefits are only paid to individuals who have a wage loss resulting from a workplace injury and not those individuals who left their employment for reasons unrelated to an injury.
The Ohio Chamber made HB 81 a key vote recorded in the chamber’s Free Enterprise Index because its enactment will accomplish two legislative priorities of the Ohio Chamber. These priorities were developed through our member driven committee process and reflect the most pressing needs of Ohio employers, so we are pleased to see overwhelming support from lawmakers for this important pro-business bill.
The Senate vote this week followed a unanimous vote by the Ohio House in late 2019, but due to amendments added by the upper chamber, the House must concur with those amendments prior to heading to the governor’s desk for his signature. The Ohio Chamber eagerly awaits further action by the House and the governor, and we look forward to HB 81 becoming law by the end of this year.