While attention has been focused on Governor John Kasich’s historic budget efforts, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has been quietly working on bringing service, simplicity and savings to Ohio’s businesses and injured workers, according to BWC Administrator/CEO Stephen Buehrer. Buehrer today released an overview of his first six months on the job.
“Our first six months have been about listening to our customers and employees to better understand how we can make workers’ comp and asset in Ohio’s economic recovery,” said Buehrer. “These efforts have laid the groundwork for the next six months, which will focus on reducing costs and getting injured workers healthy and back to work in a timelier manner.”
In engaging stakeholders and employees, Buehrer has spoken with nearly 30 stakeholder groups and visited all 16 BWC locations throughout the state. As a result of these and other data collection efforts, he has identified three primary areas improvement; reducing medical and indemnity costs that are outpacing national averages, reducing recent increases in the time it takes workers to return to work, and reducing the total length of time spent paying claims, in which Ohio ranks worst in the nation. To address the root cause of these issues, Buehrer has established five workgroups on Triaging Claims, Medical Management, Drug Utilization, Vocational Rehabilitation and Settlements.
In addition to identifying areas for improvement, Buehrer listed several other accomplishments:
- Saving Ohio employers $65 Million in premiums by reducing average base rates for private employers by 4 percent;
- Saving an additional $80 million by reducing the BWC budget by 12% over the last biennium;
- Expanding the safety council rebate program, allowing group-rated employers to receive a 2 percent discount for demonstrating improvements to employee safety;
- Establishing a one-time forgiveness program that waives penalties and interests for first-time offenders of lapsed premium; and
- Emphasizing fraud detection, prevention and prosecution, among businesses, providers and injured workers, and securing 43 indictments and 42 convictions over the last six months.
While pleased with the progress made so far, Buehrer acknowledged that the next six month will provide even more opportunities to improve the workers’ comp system. Much of the effort being undertaken to reduce costs and improve care to injured workers can be done internally, Buehrer also has an eye on larger scale reform.
In the coming months, Buehrer expects to prioritize a list of changes requiring legislative action and is compiling data to help answer questions surrounding issues such as benefits structure, marketplace competition and the appellate process.
“We’ve made some great first steps, but we have to continue to find and implement ways to better serve our injured workers and reduce costs so Ohio’s businesses can focus on growth,” said Buehrer.
Source: Ohio BWC