Ohio Gov. Bob Taft met with 40 business leaders Friday to discuss workers'' compensation in Ohio and the nation.
A new survey by Hartford''s Conning & Co., released last week, projected more than a third of all workers'' compensation insurers will increase rates 11 to 20 percent this year. Another third of respondents said rates would increase as much as 10 percent.
"National trends show workers'' compensation rates are increasing," Taft told employers. "We must continue to keep an eye on Ohio''s workers comp system, to make sure we don''t return to where we were in the early 1990s. We are counting on you to help us continue to buck the national trend by remaining dedicated to investing in your workers safety."
The survey revealed that in Indiana and Pennsylvania, employers are already seeing slight increases in their workers'' compensation rates.
In New York, last week, a governor''s commission held hearings because the state''s business council says costs are rising. And all of Ohio''s other boarder states are seeing a slow down in the trends of rate reductions.
Ohio, on the other hand, has already projected a 5 percent average rate cut through 2001.
"And, Ohio will grant two, one-time, 75 percent reductions in 2001 totaling more than $1.2 billion in savings. These reductions are unprecedented in any other workers'' compensation system in the nation," according to Taft''s office.
Since 1999, Ohio employers have saved more than $2.8 billion in workers'' compensation costs.
"We have worked hard in workers comp to run it like a business," said James Conrad, Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) administrator and CEO. "But in these good times we don''t want to see employers forget about safety because the costs of workers'' comp is low. It would not take long for Ohio to slip into the national trend of increased rates if safety is ignored."
In the first half of 2000, more than 800 Ohio businesses dropped the Premium Discount Program, a safety program that gives a 10 percent discount to companies that implement a 10-step safety program. That has BWC''s Conrad concerned.
"That is exactly the direction we can''t head," said Conrad. "If we continue on that track it will only be a matter of time before we will see rates increase. I know none of us want to see the nearly 20 percent rate hikes that businesses in California are bracing for."
Taft and Conrad challenged the business leaders, many representing large employer associations, to get more involved in workers'' compensation.
This fall, BWC will offer a series of free training events in seven Ohio cities for employers, medical providers and others involved in the workers'' comp industry.
The events, called Workers Comp University (WCU), will provide information about Ohio''s programs that foster better on-the-job safety and improved workers'' comp management.
For more information on the events, visit www.ohiobwc.com.
by Virginia Sutcliffe