|April 16, 2014|
Previously published on April 11, 2014
HB 493 includes portions of the governor’s MBR related to workers’ compensation reforms. While the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and its Administrator, Steve Buehrer, have drawn widespread praise from most stakeholders, HB 493 was met with some skepticism from members of the House Insurance Committee. The issue to some members of the committee are two proposals contained in the omnibus reform bill, one dealing with BWC’s pharmaceutical program, and the other with how it handles out-of-state coverage for Ohio employers.
The first change deals with BWC’s First Fill program. As proposed in HB 493, the program aims to provide prescription medications to injured workers who need medication before their claim can be adjudicated. In the past, injured workers have had to front money for these prescriptions or assign them to their health insurance or other insurance programs such as Medicaid, despite the fact that they are properly related to a workers’ compensation claim. First Fill seeks to allow the Bureau to cover the costs of up to 14 days of medication for injured workers. If the claim is later allowed, the cost will be incorporated into the employer's experience rating as part of the claim cost. If the claim is disallowed, it will be absorbed by the State Fund. BWC estimates the cost of the program to be approximately $110,000 per year. Legislators expressed concern that the program could contribute to Ohio’s opioid addiction problem. However, attempts to limit the program through various amendments to the legislation were rejected.
The second program in HB 493 that caught legislators’ attention was what BWC is calling their “fronting” proposal. This proposal seeks to streamline workers’ compensation coverage for employers who use Ohio employees to perform work out of state, or who hire out of state workers to perform work they undertake in those states. Currently, employers must rely on reciprocal arrangements with others states’ workers’ compensation systems, or must secure workers’ compensation coverage through a third party when performing work out of state. Under the BWC proposal, the Bureau would set up an arrangement with one or more private third party workers’ compensation providers and allow employers to utilize these insurers on a one-stop-shop basis. BWC would bill the third parties on the employers’ behalf, and the employers would receive one bill from BWC for in-state and out-of-state work. Despite the support of some business groups, some legislators expressed concern with this program. Again, legislative attempts to alter this program were rebuffed.
Ultimately, the House Insurance Committee did report HB 493 with only minor changes. As noted above, the full House voted to approve the bill. Barring any unforeseen circumstance, the legislature is expected to pass the bill this spring and send it to the governor for his signature.