On March 19, 2020, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) issued some guidance to employers and employees to explain how the BWC is continuing to operate during this crisis. The BWC is continuing to process claims. For employers, the present changes may result in increased claim costs attributed to their risk. The BWC is permitting benefits to continue while suspending some of the employees’ requirements to maintain those benefits.
For example, employees are not required to continue to perform job searches through April 30, 2020 in order to continue to receive wage loss benefits. In addition, employees are not required to go to their doctors in order to obtain documentation that they remain disabled from work through April 30, 2020. Hence, at least until April 30, 2020, it is likely injured workers’ benefits will continue. However, if a motion to terminate benefits has already been filed, that issue is one of the issues being heard by the Industrial Commission via telephone hearings.
Notably, the BWC has indicated that they are not scheduling Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs). Thus, for state-funded employers, the state will not be scheduling any examinations to evaluate an employee’s extent of disability. As a result, the state will not be attempting to terminate an injured worker’s compensation due to having reached maximum medical improvement in their claim. Rather, the burden will be on employers to pay for and schedule their own independent medical examinations at least until April 30, 2020.
The BWC has not yet issued any guidance as to whether or not the state will reimburse or credit employers for the increased costs that were beyond the control of any party. However, at Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s news conference on March 21, the announcement was made that employers may defer premium payments due for March, April or May for the current policy year until June 1, 2020. At that time, the matter will be reconsidered.
We will continue to monitor these developments.