During my last semester of law school, I completed a research paper on the national trend of state legislatures imposing limits on employer workers’ compensation liability. Unfortunately, this trend is continuing in Michigan, where House Bill 5002 is working its way through the state legislature.
House Bill 5002 seeks to reduce the cost of workers’ compensation on the state budget. This reduction, however, comes at a steep price for injured workers. For example, the bill would require an injured worker who cannot perform the position in which he or she was injured to look for other work within “his or her qualifications, training and transferable skills.” If an injured worker cannot find such work, their benefits may nonetheless be reduced by wages of positions he or she could perform. As a result, “workers’ comp benefits could be reduced based on theoretical wages….”
Similarly, if an injured worker is eligible for a pension, but has not elected to take it, at the time of injury, House Bill 5002 would allow for the reduction of benefits based on the amount the injured worker could have been collecting had they chosen to retire. Thus, an injured worker “‘could see their worker compensation benefit greatly reduced or wiped out altogether to offset a pension they don’t receive.”
The other main anti-worker component to House Bill 5002 would expand a Michigan employer’s ability to control an injured worker’s treatment from ten (10) days to forty-five (45) days (in Ohio, injured workers have the freedom to select a provider of their choice at anytime during their treatment, so long as the physician is BWC certified).
So, what does this mean for Ohio? The current administration in Columbus has made no secret about its desire to reform Ohio’s workers’ compensation system. Shortly after winning the gubernatorial election in November 2010, John Kasich appointed Steve Bueher as the Administrator of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. In so doing, Governor Kasich stated that, in his opinion, the workers’ compensation system in Ohio “is a mess of red tape and anti-business processes,” spurring the need for reform. Further, the state legislature is set to discuss workers’ compensation reform in the new year. Let’s just hope it does not adopt any of the anti-worker ideas currently making the rounds just across the border.