COLUMBUS — State Representative Mike Henne (R-Clayton) recently unveiled a plan for overhauling Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to better serve the state’s workforce. The plan includes rebranding the workers’ compensation agency as the Office of Employee Safety and Rehabilitation.
“Ohio’s workers’ compensation system is run entirely by the state, and therefore it is our responsibility to ensure it operates at its best,” Henne said. “We’ve made great strides in improving the system in recent years but have the opportunity to make it even better. This plan is ambitious and multi-faceted, with the end goal of refocusing the organization to better reflect its mission.”
Henne’s vision for the Office of Safety and Rehabilitation centers on five major components: safety, health care, rehabilitation, extended benefits and death benefits. The legislation, which is anticipated to be introduced next week, includes the following major components:
- Tasks the agency to create workplace safety standards
- Incentivizes employers to implement safety programs
- Establishes an injured worker plan tailored to each injured employee to help get them back to work full-time, part-time or through retraining or reeducation for a different position
- Creates a sliding scale for extended benefits for employers who become permanently totally disabled (PTD) within ten years of retirement
- Establishes a $35,000 lump sum payment for the families of employees who are killed on the job
- Creates a $5,000 a year scholarship for eligible dependents of deceased employees for up to four years
While workers’ compensation benefits are not intended to be a retirement plan according to Henne, his proposal does account for the situation where an employee becomes PTD and is unable to continue contributing to their own retirement plan.
For such a situation, the legislative proposal allows for extended benefits to kick in for anyone who becomes PTD ten years or less before they reach the social security retirement age or, for public employees, the age at which they are eligible for an unreduced retirement allowance from a public retirement system. The individual’s extended benefit allowance will be based on a percentage of their wage loss benefit that they were receiving prior to retirement. For example, for individuals who became PTD at age 55, they would receive 100% of the wage loss benefit amount after retiring; those becoming PTD at age 56 would receive 90% of the wage loss benefit after retirement, age 57 would receive 80%, and continues on the sliding scale until age 64, in which case the individual would receive 10%.
Ohio is one of only four states (Washington, Wyoming and North Dakota) that has not privatized its workers’ compensation system. This legislation does not include any provisions that would privatize the agency.
The legislation is expected to receive a bill number this week, after which it will be assigned to a House committee for further vetting.