Ohio Appeals Order to Pay Employers $860M for Workers’ Compensation Overcharges
The state is appealing court orders to repay employers overcharged for workers’ compensation insurance. What it could mean for workers is unclear.
Any person confronted with having to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits in Ohio knows that the process can be daunting.
While the name of the state agency that oversees these important matters is the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, employers and employees would likely agree that the term bureaucracy, with all its negative connotations, would be more appropriate. Denials of claims are common and employers often either stall, or look to avoid paying benefits. Where that leaves employees who have been hurt on the job becomes fairly clear.
Long-standing concerns about how the system has developed have led to some government initiatives to make improvements in recent years. But as has been widely reported lately, elements of the past are threatening to catch up with the BWC at a cost that has been pegged as high as $860 million.
State appeals that BWC overcharged employers
What we’re talking about, of course, is the lawsuit brought by a group of about 270,000 Ohio employers. Reports in the Cincinnati Enquirer, The Columbus Dispatch and elsewhere note that the employers claim the BWC granted certain handpicked employers premium discounts for years while charging non-participating employers exorbitant rates.
Two courts have already sided in favor of the employer group, with a judge in Cuyahoga County ordering the state to pay back $860 million. But now the matter has been appealed by the BWC to the state Supreme Court. No decision has been made as to whether the court will hear the matter. Meanwhile, the BWC has said it has pulled the necessary cash from its $8.5 billion pool of assets and set it aside pending final resolution.
That’s got the lead plaintiff for the employers miffed. Reacting to the state’s decision to appeal, he observed that the BWC has “repeatedly admitted” it charged employers too much between 2001 and 2009. And he said the state’s claim that it has fixed the issue only reinforces that a problem existed and that the money should be paid back.
BWC suggests workers’ comp benefits could suffer
What implications the case might have for employees who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the workers’ compensation fund isn’t clear. However, the suggestion from the BWC is that there could be negative consequences.
The court papers state that if the Supreme Court takes the case and affirms the lower court decisions, hundreds of millions of dollars will be paid out to employer plaintiffs. Alternatively, the agency notes that if the lower court decisions are overturned, the BWC will be able to lower premiums for employers and have more available funds to pay for worker claims.
The last thing that any person who has suffered injury or illness due to exposures on the job needs is to worry about is how they will pay for their care and how their family will survive during the period of recovery. Yet, the workers’ compensation system does little to make things easy. To be sure that full benefits are secured and a worker’s rights are protected, an attorney’s help should be sought.