Managing workers' compensation Featured

11:57am EDT March 11, 2004
The best way to control your workers' compensation costs is to avoid injury in the first place. But if someone does get injured at your workplace, you want the best Managed Care Organization possible handling your employee's claim.

Every two years, the Bureau of Workers' Compensation offers open enrollment, a time when employers are allowed to switch MCOs. The next open enrollment period starts May 3 and runs through May 21.

"The purpose is to provide employers the opportunity to change MCOs if they desire a different type of service, if they are not satisfied with their current MCO or if they just want to see what else is out there," says Jeremy Jackson, spokesperson for the BWC.

The bureau will send out a packet of information the last week of April that has an MCO report card rating each organization based on satisfaction of both employers and injured workers. Contact information for each MCO is also provided to make switching easier.

"If you have any dissatisfaction with your current MCO, then you are probably going to want to do some investigating," says Jackson. "If you do decide to start shopping around, ask the other MCOs how quickly they file a first report of injury with the bureau. If they are prompt in filing a first report, and it's determined to be a legitimate claim, then the employee will get the treatment they need and keep your costs down.

"The other thing you'll want to look at in terms of costs that also relates to the worker is their return-to-work strategies. What strategies do they use to bring an injured worker back to work? The reason programs are important is the sooner an injured workers gets back to work and the faster they get treatment, the cost you pay and the cost of the claim goes down significantly."

An example of a back-to-work strategy is a transitional work program. In this case, an injured industrial worker who breaks his leg might not be able to return to his previous position, but might be able to do office work or other light duties until fully healed.

Despite the ability to switch MCOs every two years, only about 5 percent of Ohio's 270,000 employers have made a change in the history of the program.

If you decide to make a change, you'll have to fill out a simple form and mail, fax or fill out the online version and return it to the BWC. The bureau and the MCO handle the rest of the details, including issuing new ID cards to workers already being treated.

"We make sure the employer is aware of what's going on every step of the way," says Jackson. "There is also a quality check after the transfer of files to make sure the new ID cards are updated and accurate. We want to make sure that all the information and active claims have been successfully transferred. No one wants to have an injured worker fall through the cracks."

If you switch, your current MCO will manage your claims until June 27. On June 28, the new MCO becomes responsible for all active claims.

If you are happy with your current MCO, you don't need to do anything.

"The research is critical from the employer's standpoint," says Jackson. "The MCO will not only make sure workers are able to return to work more quickly, but keeps your overall costs down if they employ effective strategies." How to reach: Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, (800) 644-6292 or www.ohiobwc.com