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Workers' comp reform mirrors calls for change

Very few people would dispute the fact that workers' compensation is an important safety net for workers who are hurt on the job. However, the workers' compensation system in Ohio has proved to be the subject of several ongoing legislative and policy debates.

The Ohio workers' compensation system has seen numerous changes over the past several years. Those changes tend to reflect the evolving needs of both injured workers and their employers.

Statistics help to highlight some issues and illustrate why many believe more change is required. For instance, in 2007, 75 percent of injured workers in Ohio returned to work within one year, but that number is less than 69 percent today. This indicates not only a drop in healthy employees coming back to their jobs, but also means lost productivity for their employers. Information like this will help to determine the steps that are required to protect and preserve the workers' compensation system.

Such reform generally comes by legislative mandate. In 2006, former Gov. Bob Taft signed legislation reducing the number of permanent total-disability designations and the amount of time an injured employee could continue to receive benefits while looking for a new job. The current administration has also put its stamp on workers' compensation reform by making several changes to the system. Gov. John Kasich has reduced base workers' compensation rates by four percent, offered a two percent discount for a good safety record and has started an initiative to lower rates for public employees by five percent next year.

Despite the alterations the Governor has already made, additional change is up for debate. Some of the issues that remain unsettled in regards to the compensation system include improved monitoring of prescription drugs to avoid abuse, the increase of managed-care programs and privatization of the system.

Source: Columbus Dispatch, "Kasich promises talks on new workers' comp plan," Joe Vardon, Nov. 17, 2011

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The Bainbridge Firm, LLC

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