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Ohio court: Businesses overpaid $860 million into workers' comp

A recent ruling by the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals has confirmed that the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation has overcharged Ohio businesses more than $800 million in workers' compensation assessments. The question now becomes, what to do with the money that was collected?

The funding of the system for workers' compensation necessarily must take into account potentially conflicting interests among the businesses that pay into it, the injured workers who rely on it, and the state government itself, which has its own interest in seeing that the system is adequately funded.

The ruling by the court of appeals, however, suggests that some of those interests have been better protected than others, and that the result has been unfair to some Ohio businesses.

Those businesses, bolstered by the decision of the appeals court, want back the money they overpaid. But for the time being, the position of the BWC is, wait and see.

What the BWC is waiting for is a decision on whether to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court the decision of the court of appeals.

The businesses that want the money to be refunded claim that the overcharging by the BWC has cost them more than just the money they paid into the workers’ compensation fund. They argue, for example, that if they had been able to allocate the money taken by the excess assessments on their own, they could have hired more workers, or upgraded plant and equipment, or invested the money in other ways to boost productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

The BWC, on the other hand, still refuses to concede that it overcharged businesses, although it has set aside, from its more than $8 billion of assets, an amount equal to the claimed excess assessments, just in case it eventually does need to pay the money back. The deadline for the BWC’s decision on whether to appeal the court of appeals ruling is fast approaching.

It is crucial that this issue is settled so that businesses and their employees can be confident that workers’ compensation benefits are protected and available when the need arises. 

Source: Mansfield News Journal, "Ohio businesses want back $860M from workers' comp," Bowdeya Tweh, June 24, 2014

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