On September 25, 2008 the Board of Directors of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation held a public forum to focus on the privilege of self insurance in the state of Ohio. Presented as part of the reform mandate brought about by the recent turbulent times at the Bureau, the Board announced that they wished to move beyond the evaluation of state fund programs and into the area of self insurance.

Noticeably present at the forum was an organized segment of labor whose proposed changes in self insurance certainly reach into the entire employer community of Ohio. These changes, if adopted by the Board, will invariably drive up the cost of not only self insurance but the cost of any employer’s workers’ compensation risk.

The topics raised at the forum include:

Mandatory and standardized transitional work programs that include provisions for levels of pay and treatment accommodations;

Requiring that transitional work programs be offered as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program;

Mandating that injured workers be provided a free choice of vocational provider much like they are provided a free choice of physician;

Restriction on the disclosure of medical records;

Mandated training and performance levels for those delivering self insured claims administration;

Standardized independent medical examination lists and rules;

Increased oversight and penalties for failure to meet Ohio’s rules of self insurance.

As part of this forum the self insured community raised issues dealing with:

Seeking greater latitude to case manage medical treatment;

Adjustment of necessary rules to permit integrated disability management to account for an employer’s responsibility to the FMLA, ADA and disability regulations spelled out in a long or short term disability contract;

Adjustments to the maintenance of the Self Insured Guarantee Fund to prevent complete mutualization across all  self insured employers when a self insured employer fails.

It is yet to be known the extent to which the Board of Directors will chart a course that changes the way employers in Ohio do business. What is certain, more now than at any time in the past, is that there is traction in Ohio to bring to the table those concerns some have about the way self insured employers have conducted business. Should the Board of Directors see fit to set a policy for the Bureau to create greater regulatory oversight for the programs administered by self insured employers it is almost certain that the changes made to individual programs will impact all employers regardless of their workers’ compensation insurance status.

The importance of this forum should not go unnoticed. Employers in Ohio would be best served to take an interest in the rule making process that will follow any direction charted by the Board of Directors. The members of Reminger’s Workers’ Compensation Practice Group have begun organizing a stakeholder group to respond to these challenges. Anyone who may have questions regarding these events, or who would like to become a member of the stakeholder group, should feel free to contact any member of our team.

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