Coronavirus is quickly changing the way businesses are working. To slow the spread of the virus without major disruptions to operations, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has ordered all staff to work from home until further notice. BWC employees continue to be available by email and telephone to address issues and answer questions from employers, injured workers, providers, and others involved in the workers’ comp process. Here is what we know so far about how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting workers’ compensation in Ohio.

Employers

1. Are unpaid insurance premium installments impacted?

At this time, private and public employers may defer their unpaid insurance premium installment amounts, due for March, April, and May, until June 1, 2020. All deferrals are automatic and no application is necessary. However, employers who wish to submit payments online are free to do so. The BWC will not cancel coverage or apply penalties for amounts not paid due to the current pandemic.

2. Does the premium installment payment deferral apply to PEOs that are state fund employers?

During the pandemic, PEO employers are permitted to defer actual payroll reporting and premium payments, for March and April, until June 1st. May payroll reports and payments will be due on or before June 15 as previously scheduled. Like all other employers in the state, client employers of PEOS have the option of deferring payments until June.

Claim processing

1. Is the BWC still accepting and making determinations on new claims?

The BWCs staff is working remotely with full access to the claims processing system. Customer service workers and claims representatives will still be accepting new claim applications and making determinations on those claims.

2. What if my doctor’s office is closed and they can’t complete necessary forms?

BWC staff has been instructed to continue payments for workers receiving temporary total compensation until April 30. As that date draws closer, the BWC will reevaluate the extension.

3. If I’m participating in a rehab program will my benefits be extended?

Payment plans for injured workers who are currently receiving living maintenance compensation will continue until April 30. As that date draws closer, the BWC will reevaluate the extension.

4. What if I have a question about my claim? Who should I talk to?

BWC staff will be monitoring voicemail and email while working remotely. Since voicemail access is limited, the BWC recommends that injured workers contact their claims service specialist via email. If you are currently represented by an attorney, you should also speak with your attorney during this time.

5. What about claim decision appeals?

As always, parties will have 14 days to appeal any claim decision. The Ohio Industrial Commission (IC) will continue to hold hearings for appeals. Updates on the IC’s schedule and updated information on hearings can be found on their website.

Coronavirus-related claims

1. Is COVID-19 illness a compensable workers’ comp claim?

Typically, communicable diseases such as coronavirus are not eligible for workers’ comp claims. However, if your workplace or occupation puts you at a considerably higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or places you at a higher exposure rate, the BWC may allow your workers’ comp claim for coronavirus.

2. Is COVID-19 quarantine a compensable workers’ comp claim?

BWC compensation is limited to only those allowed claims for disability resulting from a workplace injury or illness. During the coronavirus pandemic, the state of Ohio has expanded unemployment benefits for those impacted by quarantine orders and business closure due to the pandemic.

Programs and training

1. How does coronavirus impact program reporting, requirement, and completion deadlines?

For the current policy year, ending June 30, 2020 for private employers, the BWC is waiving all safety education and training requirements for the Drug Free Safety Program, EM Cap Program, Grow Ohio Program, Industry Specific Safety Program, One Claim Program, and Policy Activity Rebate Program. Private employers will still receive the discounts offered through these programs and the discounts will be applied automatically. The annual report deadline for submission for the Drug Free Safety Program has been extended to June 1, 2020. Public Employer program participants will be reviewed in June for calendar year 2020.

2. What about audits of self-insuring (SI) and state fund (SF) employers?

Virtual and paper audits will continue for all SI and SF employers. Until further notice, the BWC has suspended all face-to-face audits for SI and SF employers. The BWC will issue temporary certificates to SI employers until face-to-face audits resume.

3. What about training and classes?

While all in-person and classroom training sessions have been canceled at this time, all employers are encouraged to continue to take advantage of online classes for program requirements.

4. What about the true-up grace period for public employer taxing districts?

The BWC is reviewing policy and legal requirements for extending the PEC true-up grace period.

Here when you need us

As things evolve it is crucial that you understand how the pandemic could impact your company’s workers’ comp policy and your employees’ claims. Sheakley’s workers’ comp experts are committed to keeping you up to date on all the latest coronavirus news. Stay up-to-date by subscribing to our blog, following us on social media, and checking our Sheakley Coronavirus page. Join the discussion by commenting below.