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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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HomeOpEd
Published: Sunday, 1/26/2014

GUEST COLUMN

Workplace safety is smart business

A grant program gives employers an opportunity to invest in their workers’ safety and to save on workers’ compensation premiums

BY STEVE BUEHRER
Buehrer Buehrer
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Gov. John Kasich has made improving Ohio’s job climate his highest priority, and has urged each member of his cabinet to act to ensure that businesses and the economy in our state will thrive. With this focus, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has made a number of reforms and plans more improvements in 2014.

During the past year, I have made several visits to northwest Ohio — a region I had the privilege of serving as a state lawmaker for 12 years. I look forward to addressing the Rotary Club of Toledo on Feb. 3. These discussions help strengthen our knowledge and partnership with stakeholders, and allow us to make significant strides in improving our workers’ compensation system.

In 2013, the bureau sent $1 billion in rebate checks to public and private employers across Ohio. Prudent fiscal management and investment strategies made these payments possible.

Lucas County employers collected more than $38 million. I joined Governor Kasich to present the city of Toledo with its $2.5 million check, which it used to hire firefighters. By putting more dollars in the pockets of employers, we’ve had a positive influence on northwest Ohio’s economy.

We’re working to carry out the remaining two parts of the “billion back” plan: an expansion of our safety grant program and a switch to prospective billing. The grant program gives employers a tremendous opportunity to invest in their workers’ safety, and to save money on workers’ compensation premiums because their workplaces are safer.

We have lifted the lifetime cap on awards under the program, and have increased the total amount available to employers from $5 million to $15 million. We want to prevent as many claims as possible, and these safety grants help accomplish that.

The legwork for prospective billing is happening now, and employers will see the fruits of our labor in 2015. We’re excited to become up to date with the standard industry practice of collecting premiums before extending coverage. To ease the transition from billing in arrears to billing in advance, we’ll issue Ohio employers — public and private — more than $1 billion in credits to cover the cost.

We’re instituting a new computer system for policy and claims management; that important upgrade will go live this year. Our staff is preparing for a new billing process, and for a transition to new medical coding requirements.

Other major initiatives to promote workplace safety and improve medical delivery will benefit employers, workers, and providers. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to serve employers and injured workers.

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is working to make 2014 a year in which we continue to provide the best possible service to employers and injured workers in northwest Ohio.

Steve Buehrer is administrator and CEO of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.



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