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Ohio workers' compensation chief comments on program, reforms

Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Administrator and CEO Stephen Buehrer provided comments and an official statement recently commemorating the 100th anniversary of the state's workers' comp program.

As he readily notes, discussions concerning the program invariably "elicit strong opinions from all corners." Buehrer says that the program -- designed to protect injured workers and their employers by balancing the needs of both -- will always engender hot debate concerning major agenda items, particularly the need for reform.

Conversely, he notes, "the little things are infinitely the most important," and he states that the BWC has focused on and successfully carried out a number of mini-reforms during 2011 that have made a strong and salutary difference in the program's operation and effectiveness.

Buehrer points immediately to a 12 percent cut in the bureau's base rates and biennial budget, which he says have saved Ohio businesses and taxpayers more than $165 million. He also says that worker safety improved during the year as a result of a wellness grant program instituted by the BWC.

Buehrer says that "troubling trends" serve to undercut improvements made to the system, though. Central among these is a drop in the number of workers who return to their jobs within a year after being approved for workers' compensation benefits.

Buehrer also states that medical costs and outlays relating to lost wages are rising faster in Ohio than in many other states, and that the state stands dead last in the country for having the highest long-term costs for claims.

Buehrer discusses a number of bureau aims going forward, most fundamentally the BWC's focus on getting injured employees healthy, productive and back to the workplace more quickly than is presently the case.

Source: Circleville Herald, "Looking back over 100 years of workers comp" Stephen Buehrer, Dec. 26, 2011

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