The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has been in operation for 100 years in Ohio, but the state government is continually updating its services and strengthening its mission. In the past year, a number of important reforms have been made to the BWC and several new programs have been created to better serve workers and their employers.
In 2011, the BWC decreased its budget by 12 percent over the next two years, saving an additional $80 million. Private employers and local governments have also benefited from recent BWC reforms. By cutting average base rates by four percent, Ohio’s private businesses have saved $65 million in premiums, and local governments have pocketed $22 million in savings due to a five-percent reduction in public employer rates.
In addition to these financial changes, the BWC has zeroed in on its fraud department efforts. Fraud is a serious impediment to the proper delivery of BWC benefits and services. This heightened focus covers all types of fraud, and Ohio has already seen positive effects. The first nine months of 2011 brought with it 95 indictments and 94 convictions that involved fraud by injured workers. The department also pinpointed $44.37 million in savings for the State Insurance Fund during this same time period.
In terms of new programs, the BWC recently created Destination: Excellence to improve return-to-work rates by giving employer incentives. To qualify for rewards, businesses must create a risk management plan that addresses prevention and safety and also focuses on returning injured employees back to the workplace more quickly. This rating plan gives companies seven program options to choose from.
The Grow Ohio Program is another new BWC initiative. This program promotes economic development by offering new employers appealing workers’ compensation premiums. Through Grow Ohio, new businesses can save up to 53 percent on these premiums through picking one of two options. They may either receive a 25 percent premium discount for two years or opt to waive the waiting period and join a group rating program straight away to cut their premiums up to the 53 percent.
The BWC concentrated on worker wellbeing with the creation of the Wellness Grant Program this past year. The four-year, $4 million program gives employers up to $15,000 in order to start their own employee wellness programs. In doing so, businesses will be able to better respond to current health threats, such as the rising prevalence of chronic disease and obesity. The program will also help employers deal with the aging workforce. These realities all contribute to on-the-job injuries and the delayed recovery of injured employees.
I am proud of the role that the Ohio House played in many of these changes, and I am eager to work on more innovative BWC programs and reforms. The year 2011 was a successful one in terms of BWC restructuring, and I am confident that 2012 will be just as productive.