Why is the Ohio BWC Paying Employers to Hire Workers with a History of Opioid Abuse?

On September 10, 2018 the Ohio BWC issued a press release announcing a new pilot program. The BWC’s Opioid Workplace Safety Program will provide up to $5 million over two years to help employers in Montgomery, Ross and Scioto counties hire, manage and retrain workers in recovery.  The pilot program’s launch is scheduled for October 15, 2018.

According to the press release, the BWC will partner with county Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health boards to coordinate the pilot program. The boards will identify eligible employers and employees, disperse funding and measure results. BWC will cover the following:

  • Reimbursement for pre-employment, random and reasonable suspicion drug testing;
  • Training for managers/supervisors to help them better manage a workforce that includes individuals in recovery;
  • A forum/venue for “second-chance” employers to share success stories that will encourage others to hire workers in recovery.

Under the program, BWC will allot a lump sum to each ADAMH board on a quarterly basis. Employers must pay for expenses up front and apply to the boards for reimbursement.

Over the last few years, the BWC has implemented a number of changes that have resulted in significant decreases in the number of injured workers receiving opioids (51%) and the number of opioid dependent injured workers (50%).

These measures include a change to the Ohio Administrative Code that I wrote about in a prior post.  Specifically, O.A.C. Section 4123-6-21.1 was amended to provide a provision by which the BWC (or self-insured employers) may unilaterally terminate payment for opioid pain medications.  In order to begin the termination process, the BWC/self-insured employer must:

  1. Notify the worker, their representative, and the prescribing physician in writing that the employer will be obtaining a review as to the necessity and appropriateness of the medication.
  2. The notice must inform all parties that they have twenty-one days from the receipt of the notice to provide additional information to justify the need for continued use of the medications.
  3. If the review indicates that the medication is not necessary or appropriate, the BWC or self-insured employer can unilaterally terminate payment for the medication effective as of the date of the review, with notice to the worker that they have the right to appeal to the Industrial Commission. See O.A.C. §4123-6-21.1(I)

Employers in Montgomery, Ross and Scioto counties may want to consider the BWC’s pilot program.  All  employers should take a close look at your claims, and determine whether any of them are ripe for a prescription drug review.


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