Quick Summary of Senate Bill 45 (as Signed by Governor)
This is a quick summary of reductions in benefits and changes in definition to limit coverage and thereby reduce benefits contained in the Workers’ Compensation Benefits Reduction Bill, Senate Bill No. 45, which passed the Ohio Legislature on April 16, 1997 and was signed by the Governor on April 22, 1997.
The changes were rejected by the people of Ohio, who voted “NO” on Issue 2, the referendum challenge to the bill. For more information about this bill, and Isue 2, see our referendum page.
Note that throughout this bill, impairment was written into various provisions. Among those provisions are R.C. 4123.57, (permanent partial) and R.C. 4123.58, (permanent total), which were changed from disability to impairment.
The change from disability to impairment would have meant no recognition for individual differences. For example, a person sixty years old may be more affected by an injury than a twenty-five year old. The person who had a fourth grade education and worked as a laborer for thirty years and can’t do that work because of the injury is more devastated by the injury than the twenty-five year old with a high school education.
The change for permanent total would have meant that education, lack of transferable skills, and work history don’t matter. It is all what the doctor says on impairment. Age may be considered, but leads to rejection if it is a significant factor preventing sustained remunerative employment or retraining.
Following are reductions in benefits in the bill:
- Reduces rehabilitation wage loss by one week for each week of R.C. 4123.56 wage loss that is paid.
- Reduces length of time claim is open from ten years to five years on lost time claims. Reduces length of time claim is open for medical only claims from six years to five years.
- Directs hearing officer to declare overpayment where termination of temporary total is retroactive.
- R.C. 4123.56 reduces non-working wage loss to twenty-six weeks.
- R.C. 4123.56 restricts working wage loss so that it must be solely due to allowed conditions.
- R.C. 4123.56 limits wage loss paid as difference between average weekly wage (average wage for twelve months before the injury) and amount being earned. Eliminates present use of full weekly wage (wage at time of injury), or whichever provides more to injured worker, average weekly wage or full weekly wage.
- R.C. 4123.57 – Directs use of most current AMA Guides for Impairment Evaluation by doctor performing permanent partial examinations. The change from AMA Guides III to AMA Guides IV reduced percentages on evaluations dramatically.
- R.C. 4123.57 – Limits the permanent partial award to the opinion of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation examination doctor. Hearing Officer to rubber stamp Bureau of Workers’ Compensation doctor unless the doctor did not consider all allowed conditions or considered non-allowed conditions. If he considered conditions improperly goes back for another medical examination. A second BWC exam can be obtained, but you pay for the exam.
- R.C. 4123.58 – Changes permanent total disability to permanent total impairment. Means disability factors not to be considered. If this change had been in effect, the state estimates that savings would have been $56,000,000 — or about 40 percent of all permanent total payments. That is some reduction. Age may be considered as a factor.
- R.C. 4123.61 – Requires use of date of diagnosis for occupational disease claims as the basis for calculating payment in a claim. This will reduce compensation because many workers keep working, despite diagnosis and when finally become disabled a number of years have passed. The more recent date would provide a higher rate of pay. Date of disability is currently used.For example: an injured worker with a 1980 date of diagnosis – The maximum payable in 1980 is $258.00. The injured worker keeps working until 1994, when s/he becomes disabled and stops working – the maximum payable $482.00. Under the former version of the law, the 1994 rate is the maximum payable.
- The date of first diagnosis will affect and reduce how long the claim stays open. This is especially harmful for diseases that take many years to totally disable an individual. The claim will be closed by the five year continuing jurisdiction provision.
- The statute of limitations on occupational disease claims (two years to file) starts to run from the date of diagnosis.
Exclusions by Definition Changes
- Injury definition – excludes pre-existing conditions unless substantially worsened.
- Injury Definition – excludes cumulative or repetitive trauma.
- Occupational disease – excludes ordinary disease of life.
- Occupational disease – excludes a disease that would arise without occupational exposure.
- Occupational disease – excludes disease caused previously by natural deterioration.
- Occupational disease – excludes psychiatric condition except where arises from injury or occupational disease.
- Excludes college student, during period of enrollment, from having average weekly wage adjusted due to special circumstances or because it would be expected wage would increase.