The governor of Ohio has indicated that because of the fund’s recent strong economic performance, he plans to reimburse Ohio employers over $1 billion from the state’s workers’ compensation fund. Of these funds, which the governor is calling a rebate on employers’ premiums, $115 million will go directly to public employers like municipalities and schools.
This rebate from the workers’ compensation fund comes at an opportune time for the state’s public employers. These employers are still trying to figure out how they will absorb the extra cost imposed upon them by the federal government’s Affordable Care Act, which takes effect in 2014. The rebate will help cover some of this additional cost.
The rebates are part of a larger package aimed to apply what the governor calls “excess” dollars in the state’s workers’ comp fund. The comprehensive plan will also increase available “safety and wellness” grants and will modernize the way employers receive their premium statements.
Not everyone is excited about this decision. At least one person has complained that this proposal is the equivalent of raiding a fund that is supposed to be used to cover the medical expenses and loss of wages that injured Ohio workers incur. Instead of being available for workers when the workers desperately need financial assistance, these “excess” funds will be paid back to the employers, presumably to be spent as the employers choose.
Ohio law prohibits applying dedicated workers’ comp funds to general use, but it does not prohibit the state from offering a rebate. Nevertheless, it is true that the state’s workers’ comp fund serves a vital purpose, and workers and their families count on that money being available. Although employers should get a refund on their premiums when one is readily available, hopefully the state while handle the fund prudently enough to protect future generations of Ohio workers.
Source: Newark Advocate, “Workers’ comp plan would return $113M to Ohio schools, cities,” Benjamin Lanka, May 14, 2013