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Ohio BWC Provides COVID-19 Relief

By Susan Baker

March 24, 2020

In the wake of the great economic uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has announced that it will permit employers to defer their installment payments for March, April, and May until June 1, 2020.  At that time the BWC will reconsider the situation.  Employers who elect to defer payments will not be considered to be in a lapse and the BWC will not cancel coverage.  Additionally, the BWC will not assess penalties for amounts not paid because of the pandemic.

Although the staff of the BWC is telecommuting, the BWC will continue to process claims during this period. Employees receiving temporary total disability benefits will continue to receive benefits through April 30, 2020, even if they cannot obtain an updated report from their physician of record certifying continuing disability. It is unclear what effect this will have on employer’s premium calculations if it is later determined that the injured worker was not entitled to continued benefits based on his or her medical condition.

Requests for benefits that require an independent medical exam, such as 90-day exams for a determination of maximum medical improvement, have been suspended.  The BWC is exploring ways to conduct “virtual exams” through telemedicine methods.  If an employer has scheduled an injured worker for an independent medical exam and the injured worker does not attend due to the current Stay at Home Order, the claim will not be suspended as is the general rule.

Many employers participate in programs for which they receive a discounted premium.  Many of these programs require the employer to attend certain classes.  All in-person classes have been canceled, and employers are encouraged to attend online classes offered by the BWC to comply with program requirements.  For further information on the effect of COVID-19 on the BWC, email BWCCOVID19@bwc.state.oh.us.

The Industrial Commission will continue to hold hearings by telephone during the duration of the Stay at Home Order.  Only hearings involving initial allowances, additional allowances, payment or termination of payment of temporary total disability benefits, wage loss benefits, and permanent total disability benefits will be heard.  All other hearings will be held in abeyance until further notice.  If an employer wishes to be present during a telephonic hearing, contact information must be uploaded to the electric claim file through the ICON system. Additional information is available at https://www.ic.ohio.gov

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