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Injured Ohio workers may have to see specialist or lose benefits

Last Tuesday, the Ohio House of Representatives introduced legislation that, if it becomes law, will require injured workers to see a specialist within 45 days of becoming unable to work due to a job-related accident.

Every year, an estimated 7,500 Ohio workers are unable to work for 45 days or more.

Under the new law, failing to see a specialist within the specified time period would disqualify injured workers from receiving further compensation for things such as medical expenses or loss of wages. In Ohio, injured workers can consult a doctor of their choosing to qualify for initial workers' compensation benefits.

The administrator for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation said in a news report that the proposed changes are designed to encourage injured workers to seek help so that they can recover quickly and return to their jobs.

The number of injured Ohio workers who return to work has dropped from 75 percent to 69 percent.

Under current rules, workers who are hurt on the job already have to see a specialist within 45 days or risk suspension of their benefits. They can retroactively reclaim their benefits if they eventually see a specialist. The new law would bar workers from recouping the suspended benefits.

However, the bill would also require that workers' compensation cover all medical bills during the first 45 days, whether or not the BWC eventually approves or denies the claim.

Critics claim that labor has had too little input regarding the contents of the bill.

Last year, Ohio's BWC paid $1.8 billion to cover lost wages and medical bills. It processed 116,378 new claims.

Some 256,000 employers pay into the program, and the BWC has a $26 billion investment fund that it uses to cover the remaining costs.

Source: Dayton Daily News, "Injured workers focus of House bills," Laura A. Bischoff, April 17, 2012

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