Last updated: May 12. 2014 5:30PM - 1553 Views
By Heather Rutz hrutz@civitasmedia.com

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LIMA — The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is preparing to modernize its payment model, bureau Administrator and CEO Steve Buehrer said Monday.

Buehrer, speaking to the Lima Rotary Club, said the bureau will transition its antiquated billing system from retrospective to prospective. Currently, Ohio employers pay for coverage after they receive it.

“Something that’s almost unheard of in the insurance agency,” Buehrer said.

Ohio is one of only a couple of states that bills in that manner, and no private insurers do, Buehrer said. The agency has put off making the change in the past, because it would mean double billing employers. However, the bureau is financially strong enough now to offer employers credits.

In the spring of 2015, the bureau will return $1.2 billion in credits to employers as it transitions the system. Private sector employers will receive eight months of credits and public sector employers will get 12 months of credits. The difference comes from how many months each kind of employer pays for, Buehrer said.

“We’ll have a clean conversion to move forward and we expect to cut the base rate after that,” Buehrer said.

The credits are part of a larger program the bureau has created to return some funding to employers. Earlier, the bureau returned $1 billion to employers. The smallest rebate check was $5 and the largest was $6 million. The average was $4,000.

Buehrer is also looking to cut costs by getting employees back to work sooner. The national average for workers’ compensation payments after eight years is 17 percent. Ohio is worst in the nation, at 57 percent.

“That means that some people are lingering in the system too long,” Buehrer said.

Small changes are helping medical professionals get workers back to work, Buehrer said. For example, the bureau changed a form asking how much an employee could lift. It is no longer a yes or no box to check after the question, “Can the patient lift 50 pounds?” There is now room to explain what a patient can do, so an employer can evaluate if there is an opportunity to bring someone back under light duty, Buehrer said.

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