Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BWC Reform Efforts: Why Getting Ohioans Back to Work Boosts Our Economy?

Guest Post from State Rep Jim Buchy

In the past two years, we have been working in Ohio to lower the costs of doing business and promote job growth. Thus far, we have successfully reduced taxes on family business owners, and turned the job of attracting new businesses over to the private sector, where less red tape and bureaucracy will allow Ohio to compete against other states for companies to expand in Ohio.

A key part of lowering the costs of doing business is reforms at the Bureau of Workers Compensation. Internally, the BWC has made a number of reforms in the past two years. Its efforts have directly led to Ohio’s private employers saving $65 million in premiums by reducing average base rates by 4 percent and reducing public employer rates by 5 percent. This alone will save local governments $22 million a year, providing an additional benefit for local tax rates. Each of these reforms is part of a broader effort to make sure that old and new businesses in the state of Ohio succeed economically and are able to hire more employees.

It is important for the BWC to continue its vital reform efforts, which is why I have co-sponsored three bills in the Ohio House of Representatives to help them do just that. These bills will help injured employees return to work sooner by improving the quality of care they receive. Medical professionals who do not meet certain standards of care can be more easily de-certified. These bills will also reduce burdensome bureaucracy, making it easier for workers to seek out treatment and receive benefits. This legislation is good for employees because they can recover faster and get back to work, and it’s good for the employers because it sends skilled and experienced workers back to their jobs faster.

Employers will also be able to improve their bottom line and maintain a healthy workforce under a new program. The four-year program awards companies up to $15,000 to create employee wellness programs. This will help employers meet the challenges related to rising cases of obesity and chronic disease, as well as an aging workforce. All of these factors contribute to workplace injuries and slow the recovery of injured workers.

The Bureau of Workers Compensation has also helped employers by creating Destination: Excellence, a new rating plan that aims to improve “return-to-work” rates by rewarding employers for building a risk management plan that focuses on safety, prevention, and returning those who are injured to their jobs more quickly. This is an efficient “cafeteria-style” plan that offers seven program options, which allows ease of access for the diversified market.

Like anything with age, the Bureau of Workers Compensation needs some grease and paint. Internally, the organization is dedicated to making the needed changes to cut costs to the State Government and lower the costs for businesses in Ohio. As the new legislation moves through the Ohio House Legislature I plan to be a proponent and will impact that legislation with any additional pro-business reforms that may be needed.

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