The Bureau of Workers Compensation recently celebrated its 100th anniversary in Ohio. During its time in Ohio the BWC has proven to be an organization that successfully navigates the bureaucracy separating employees from key government agencies and provides protection to injured employees and business owners alike. While its track record may be time-tested, the ways in which the BWC serve Ohioans is not outdated. With the creation of new programs and major reductions in spending, 2011 was an especially innovative year for the BWC.

Reducing unnecessary spending, getting injured workers healthy and productive more quickly, and promoting safer working conditions were the goals for 2011, and the BWC certainly delivered. Through a series of efforts the BWC saved Ohios private employers $65 million in premiums by reducing the average base rates by four percent. It reduced Public Employer rates by five percent, saving local governments $22 million a year. Furthermore, the BWC saved an additional $80 million by reducing its budget by 12 percent over the next two years.

Beyond the reduction of unnecessary spending, many programs were created to ensure that employees are cared for, while maintaining proper protection for employers. One of these initiatives is the Grow Ohio Program, which is designed to help boost economic development by creating options for new employers that can decrease their premiums by up to 53 percent.

Destination: Excellence is a new rating program introduced last year. The program aims to improve return-to-work rates by rewarding employers for building a risk management plan that focuses on safety and prevention, as well as returning those who are injured to their jobs more quickly.

The plan offers seven program options to best fit the unique needs of employers and their businesses.

The BWC also unveiled its new Wellness Grant Program, a $4 million, four-year program that awards companies up to $15,000 to start up employee wellness programs. This will help employers meet the challenges related to rising incidences of obesity and chronic disease, as well as an aging workforce. All of these factors contribute to workplace injuries and slow the recovery of injured workers.

The BWC worked very hard this year to initiate plans that offer comprehensive care to business owners and employees. Likewise, the BWC was able to save Ohio businesses and governments $165 million by cutting costs and adjusting its budget. I will continue to work with fellow House members and the BWC to enact further changes that will lead to more positive change in the future.

Rep. Landis may be reached by calling 614-466-8035, e-mailing District99@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Representative Al Landis, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215.