Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Landscape Changes with House Bill 27

September 29, 2017Legal Alerts

On June 30, 2017, Governor Kasich signed the workers’ compensation budget bill.  House Bill 27, which funds the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, also made several important changes significant to Ohio employers.  The changes are effective September 29, 2017.  The most impactful portions of House Bill 27 involve a modification in the injury statute of limitations for filing a claim, reducing the filing from two years of the date of injury to one year.  The other important portion of House Bill 27 recognized cancer as an occupational illness for firefighters.  Both of these issues were discussed in greater detail in prior Legal Alerts.  Below is a summary of other changes that will take effect at the end of September.
Extension of Time to File Ohio Industrial Commission Appeal
As it stands, a party may appeal an Industrial Commission Order to the Court of Common Pleas but must do so within 60 days of the final decision of the commission.  House Bill 27 extends that time limitation to 150 days.  To qualify for the one-time extension, both parties must agree and provide notice of intent to settle the claim.  As a significant number of appeals are filed solely to facilitate settlement, the purpose behind this change is to encourage resolution of the claim before entering into an already overburdened Ohio court system.
Permanent Partial Disability Application Dismissal
Under the current rule, if a claimant files a permanent partial disability application but fails to attend the required BWC examination the bureau suspends that application until the claimant demonstrates his availability to appear.  House Bill 27 now allows the BWC to dismiss a claimant's PPD application if the failure to attend is without notice or proper explanation.  The dismissal of the application doesn’t prevent the claimant from re-filing. The purpose behind the change is two-fold.  First, the dismissal of the application will allow the statute of continuing jurisdiction to run, preventing the claim from remaining open for an extended period.  Second, the BWC has more than 20,000 applications in suspended status.  This new statute will allow the BWC to deal with this backlog more efficiently.
Incarcerated Dependents’ Ability to Receive Compensation
Ohio Revised Code Section 4123.54 has long stated injured workers cannot receive workers’ compensation benefits while imprisoned in a federal or state correctional institution.  House Bill 27 modifies this statute to provide dependents of injured workers are also not entitled to receive these benefits if they are incarcerated.  The defendants’ benefits will be suspended during the period of confinement and may resume upon their release.
Drug Testing
Ohio Revised Code Section 4123.54 has been modified to include all controlled substances.  The threshold limits have also been changed.  These changes were made to comply with the Code of Federal Regulations.  The rules and procedures that set forth the rebuttable presumption that an injured worker was under the influence at the time of her injury were not altered.  The change merely affects the types and amounts of controlled substances.
Calculation of Full Weekly Wage
House Bill 27 states an injured worker who is awarded temporary total disability before his full weekly wage (FWW) is determined will be paid at 33 1/3 % of the statewide average weekly wage.  When the FWW is eventually calculated, Ohio Revised Code 4123.56(E) allows for the amount to be adjusted.
BWC Can Waive the 90-Day Examination
Ohio Revised Code Section 4123.53 has been revised to allow the BWC to waive the scheduling of a 90-day examination for good cause.  If the employer objects to the waiver, however, the exam must be scheduled.  Employers should be aware of when the BWC issues such a waiver and be prepared to object if there is an indication the claimant has reached maximum medical improvement.