At its core, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is about people.
We’re about the 750,000 injured workers with a claim in our system, and we’re about the 243,000 private and public employers we cover through the State Insurance Fund. And in 2016, we accomplished a number of measures to serve those people better, from creating savings for businesses to making the workplace safer so people can go home to their families at the end of their shift free of injury.
Over the past year, we continued on a path we started in 2011 with Gov. John Kasich to create a more business-friendly climate in Ohio, as well as improve care for injured workers and build a culture of safety in Ohio’s workplaces. Just in the last year, we:
• Reduced private employer premium base-rates by 8.6 percent;
• Reduced average rates for public employers by 9 percent;
• Provided a $15 million rebate to Ohio’s 88 county governments.
• Launched our Other States Coverage program, which offers Ohio employers the option to purchase special coverage that ensures their workers are properly covered when working outside of Ohio.
Our efforts are making a difference in Ohio’s business climate. In fact, premium reductions, rebates, and credits have resulted in Ohio employers saving nearly $4.8 billion since 2011. Ohio’s rates are now the 11th lowest among the states, a significant improvement from 2008 when we ranked 3rd highest, according to the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which publishes workers’ compensation rates for all 50 states and the District of Columbia every two years.
We continued our focus on the prevention and care of workplace injuries. We:
• Awarded $15 million in grants to hundreds of employers to help them create drug-free workplace and wellness programs or purchase equipment that enhanced workplace safety;
Expanded our annual Ohio Safety Congress & Expo to include a Medical and Health Symposium to educate providers about best practices related to the care of injured workers. More than 7,000 people attended these free events in March;
Continued the enhanced care pilot program that gives medical providers greater latitude in treating knee injuries, including allowing them to treat comorbidities that can delay recovery;
• Instituted a new rule that will help prevent opioid dependence by requiring providers paid by BWC to follow current best medical practices. It also ensures that injured workers who develop a dependence on opioids can receive paid treatment through BWC.
These programs work. The pilot program is showing promise at reducing the time it takes to return to work. Approved claims dropped to 88,000 from nearly 105,000 in 2011. In addition, our injury rate of 2.9 per 100 is significantly lower than the national average of 3.3 per 100. Put in terms we can all relate to, that means 17,000 more workers are going home uninjured from work each day than if we were just performing at the national average.
We are proud of our progress and look forward to working with Ohio businesses, local leaders and workers on even more exciting improvements in the coming year.
Sarah Morrison is Administrator/CEO of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.