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Author: Brandy King

Are Missing Group Retro Refunds Complicating Your Budget for 2022?

Posted By Brandy King
November 09, 2021 Category: Ohio BWC, Workers Comp, Group Retro, Retro Refunds, 2018 Policy Year, PEO

Back in August, we told you that Ohio BWC wouldn’t be paying Group Retrospective refunds to employers who participated in Retro during the 2018 and 2019 policy years.  For the past 12 years, many businesses have counted on those checks to budget for the coming year. Normally, Retro refunds would have showed up last month (October), but this time those employers were left empty-handed.  Companies that were anticipating tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands, in some cases) in Retro Refunds are now faced with an end of year shortfall and difficulty budgeting.  Our actuarial department estimates that Group Retro refund totals for all participating policyholders during the 2018 and 2019 policy years would have been as follows: •    $190,000,000 for the 2018 policy year   •    $155,000,000 for the 2019 policy year  That’s $345 Million in refunds not being paid back! If you are concerned with how the state is managing your premium dollars - and more importantly, your refunds - you have options. Self-insuring is one option, or you can look into a partnership with SuretyHR through our Self-Insured PEO program. This provides a lot of the same savings and benefits of self-insuring for workers’ comp, but without the risk and financial burden of directly paying excess

BWC to Host Open Forum on ACES

Posted By Brandy King
October 07, 2021 Category: ACES, Ohio BWC, Workers Compensation, Ohio BWC, Ohio Workers Compensation, Underwriting, ACES, MIRA II, EMR, Insurance Premiums

On October 14, BWC will host an open forum with TPAs to discuss the impact of their new reserve system called ACES.  Spooner’s goal is to convince BWC that this system is overestimating reserves for lost time claims (as well as some medical only claims) that will have a dramatic effect on Group Retro refunds for the 2020 policy year and future years. This could also have a negative impact on employers’ EMRs for the 2023 policy year. BWC implemented this new system of calculating reserves in January 2021. As early as June, we began noticing reserves jumping to nearly 4-5 times what they would have been under the previous system and industry standard, MIRA II. We shared another update in August, after reviewing the first round of results for 2020 Group Retro and finding that 68% of pools could face a first year assessment, as opposed to getting a refund from the program.  These open forums held by BWC are a platform for TPAs to voice concerns over certain policy and procedure changes that may negatively impact Ohio businesses. Spooner is an Ohio business, and our family of companies make it a priority to fight for policy changes that will have a positive impact on the business community that we’re so proud to be a part

Is Our Company Required To Train Employees in First Aid and CPR?

Posted By Brandy King
October 07, 2021 Category: OSHA, First Aid, CPR, AED, Medical Treatment, First Responder Training, Safety Training, Safety, Compliance

One question that our safety team gets across nearly all industries is, “Am I required to have my employees certified to perform first aid and CPR?” OSHA requires that in the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital within near proximity to the workplace – one or more staff members should be adequately trained to provide first aid. While the standards do not specify exactly how close by, OSHA has long interpreted the term "near proximity" to mean that emergency care must be available within no more than 3-4 minutes from the workplace. One option these standards provide employers is to ensure that a member of the workforce has been trained in first aid. This option is a feasible and low-cost way to protect employees, as well as putting the employer clearly in compliance with the standards. OSHA recommends that every workplace include one or more employees who are trained and certified in first aid, including CPR. While AED training is not specifically addressed or required by the standard, including that in your CPR training is recommended.   The team at Spooner Safety will now be offering first aid and CPR training to businesses that would like to certify members of their team as either a requirement or best practice. Please contact Jeremy Smith at 440-249-5696 | Ext: 154 for more

Ohio BWC Expands Dividend To Employers with Late 2019 True-Ups

Posted By Brandy King
October 07, 2021 Category: Ohio BWC, Workers Compensation, Ohio BWC Dividends, Rebate, True Up, Ohio Business

Some previously ineligible Ohio employers will soon be receiving dividends from Ohio BWC totaling 372.46% of their 2019 policy year premiums. Gov. Mike DeWine made a request to BWC’s board of directors to distribute dividends to roughly 3,000 policyholders who had not initially met the eligibility requirement of completing their True Up in a timely fashion. BWC announced on September 24 that their board had moved to approve this measure, releasing another $30 million in funds to be divided amongst these remaining employers.  Historically, when BWC has announced a dividend – a policy must be current and in good standing to receive their portion, which includes having completed their “True Up” process prior to the August 15 deadline each year.  Businesses that fall under this eligibility expansion will be contacted directly by BWC regarding the dividend. Remember that any current premium balance due will be deducted from the dividend amount before the check is issued.  BWC has issued over $9 billion in dividends to Ohio employers since

Have Questions About the Imminent Vaccine Mandate? So Do We.

Posted By Brandy King
October 04, 2021 Category: OSHA, OSHA ETS, Vaccine Mandate, COVID 19, Compliance, Federal Contractors, HR, Safety

Last month, President Biden directed OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that requires private employers with 100+ employees to ensure all employees are either vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus or are able to produce a negative test each week. Employers (of any size) that are federal contractors or receive certain federal funding will also be expected to meet the employee vaccination requirements – without the option of a “test out.” We expect OSHA to issue an ETS in the near future, which will hopefully answer some of the questions surrounding this mandate. Until this summer’s COVID-related ETS for healthcare workers, OSHA had not successfully issued an Emergency Temporary Standard since the 1980s (pertaining to asbestos). Effective July 2021, the agency issued its first ETS in decades highlighting the need for healthcare employers to provide certain protection measures against COVID-19 for employees. By design, an ETS will remain in effect until a permanent rule is issued. Many details of how this is all expected to work have yet to be disclosed, which makes it very difficult for our team to provide the best possible guidance. In the meantime, we can direct you to the most helpful reference we’ve found thus far, which is an article published by the National Law Review.  We encourage you to stay tuned to our blog, LinkedIn page and your outside counsel – things are changing rapidly and we’ll do our very bes

A Closer Look Inside Spooner's 401(k) MEP

Posted By Brandy King
August 04, 2021 Category: 401k, MEP, Retirement Plan, Retirement Savings, Benefits, Employee Retention, Investment,

We've shared a few details about our multi-employer retirement program in the past, but now we're taking a deeper dive into the details of Spooner's 401(k) offering that can be tailored to suit any size business, in virtually any industry. We'll outline details on both the employer and partcipant experience, as well as a true look at the fee structures involved. Some businesses have entered our MEP as a first-time offering to employees, and some have transfered assets from an existing plan into ours, saving them thousands on fees.  Take a closer look by clicking here, and reach out to our team with any

2020 Policy Year True Up Reminder!

Posted By Brandy King
August 02, 2021 Category: OHio BWC, Ohio Workers Comp, True Up, True Up Reporting, Payroll Reporting, Bwc Compliance, True Up Deadline

It’s a wrap on the 2020 policy year, which means you should be submitting your company’s annual payroll True Up to BWC. True Up is a process required by Ohio BWC at the end of each policy year, where your premiums based on projected payroll are balanced with premiums based on your actual payroll for the past year. Compliance with both the reporting and payment of any balances affects your company’s eligibility for most savings programs.  The “deadline” to submit your payroll true-up reports on the Ohio BWC website is August 15th – but there are some finer details to consider. August 15 falls on a Sunday, which makes the deadline Friday August 13, realistically speaking. We’ve also learned that historically, you should allow 24 hours for posting – which makes the real deadline Thursday August 12.   You will also need to pay any applicable balances if your payroll was higher than what the Ohio BWC estimated for the period of July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Balances are expected to be paid during the designated reporting period, but there is a small grace period on both reporting and payments. If you are unable to pay the entire balance at the end of the reporting process, please note that any future payments will first be applied to your delinquent True Up Balance before being applied to your premium installments. Payment plans for True Up balances are only available through the Ohio Attorney

BWC Excludes COVID-19 Claims from Experience

Posted By Brandy King
August 02, 2021 Category: Ohio BWC, Workers Compensation, Experience Period, COVID 19, Coronavirus, COVID 19 Workers Comp Claims

Ohio BWC recently amended a portion of the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) as it applies to employers’ experience periods. A subsection was added to 1423-17-03 (subsection 4 of Section G) with the following language: “Actual losses where COVID-19 was contracted by an employee arising during the period between the emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued March 9, 2020 and July 2, 2021 which is fourteen days after the executive order was repealed, shall be excluded from employer's experience for the purpose of experience rating calculations.” BWC’s Board of Directors noted in its Executive Summary on the proposal that pandemics are typically considered catastrophes due to scope and severity, and are typically excluded from the experience rating process. This comes as a huge relief to thousands of Ohio employers who had workers’ compensation claims filed to their policy as a result of employees presumably contracting COVID-19 while on the job. Even with contact tracing, it is difficult to determine where an employee may have contracted the virus – therefore difficult to determine the employer’s level of liability. Experience Rating refers to the calculation of an employer’s payroll and loss history within a certain period of time, and is used to determine future rates (insurance premiums) as well as EMR (experience modifier rate). You can view the entirety of the ORC entry

OSHA Region 5 Hearing Conservation Focus

Posted By Brandy King
August 02, 2021 Category: OSHA, OSHA Region 5, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Safety, Hearing Conservation, Audiogram, Regional Enforcement Program, PPE

OSHA’s Region 5, which includes Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, issued a press release announcing a Regional Emphasis Program (REP) for Exposure to Noise Hazards in the Workplace. The goal of the REP is to encourage employers to take steps to identify, reduce, and eliminate hazards associated with exposure to high levels of noise. Prior to the initiation of enforcement, a three-month period of education and compliance assistance to the public will be conducted to support the efforts of the Agency in meeting the goals of the REP. Enforcement related to this REP will begin on September 01, 2021. By law, OSHA requires employers to implement a hearing conservation program when the average noise exposure over eight working hours reaches or exceeds 85 decibels, which the Centers for Disease Control compares to the sound of city traffic (from inside the vehicle) or a gas-powered leaf blower. Nearly one in 10 people endures noise levels at work loud enough to cause hearing loss while seven in 10 experience moderately loud noise levels. A Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey published in 2019 found that more than half of the nation’s manufacturing workers reported not using personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their hearing.   If you have concerns regarding noise levels in your facilities, reach out to Spooner’s Safety team at

Group Retro Updates: 2018, 2019 & 2020

Posted By Brandy King
August 02, 2021 Category: Ohio Bwc, Group Retro, Group Retrospective Rating, ACES, MIRA, Reserves, Group Retro Assessment

We promised to keep you informed on the status of 2018 and 2019 policy year refunds from BWC’s Group Retro program.  As it stands, no employers enrolled during those years will be receiving any refunds. Typically, in the fall of 2021 Group Retro participants should be receiving your first refund from the 2019 policy year and your second refund from the 2018 year. It’s important to understand that if these refunds are normally included in your budgeting process for the coming year, you should not factor that in. For more info on why BWC chose not to release these funds, and what Spooner is doing to help Ohio employers, check out our June blog entry on these missing Group Retro Refunds. If your company was enrolled in Group Retro for the 2020 year, your first refund will be paid out in the fall of 2022.  Since the 2020 policy year recently ended, we also have an updated outlook on those returns. Out of the 45 total Private Employer Group Retro pools in Ohio, data from BWC shows that 31 of them will have an assessment for their first year (due in fall 2022). This means that companies in that pool will be billed by BWC for a portion of 2020 premiums instead of receiving a refund. This is largely due to BWC moving to a system called ACES to determine reserves on claims as of July 1, 2020. We believe BWC is open to discussing changes to some of the variables used to calculate refunds in response to the impact ACES is having on 2020 Group Retro

Surety HR: Not Your Average PEO

Posted By Brandy King
June 11, 2021 Category: PEO, Professional Employer Organization, Workers Compensation, Ohio BWC, Pros And Cons Of PEOs, Payroll, HR, Safety, Outsourcing, FMLA, Unemployment, Benefits

When we talk to prospects about Surety HR, our self-insured PEO (professional employer organization), we get a lot of very different reactions - confusion, curiosity, blank stares and occasionally – a crossed-arm refusal to hear anything else about it. We knew when we began building our PEO that several employers have a bad taste in their mouth about PEOs, usually after having (or hearing about) a bad experience.  That’s one of the many reasons we sought out these opinions to help build our framework based on what employers feel does or does not work.  The biggest thing we want to make clear is that we are not our competition.  We don’t charge based on a percentage of payroll, baking everything together so that you’ll never really know how much you’re paying for any of our services. When employers are looking for some of the solutions a PEO can provide, they are not always looking to move all their employment-related needs under one umbrella.  This is why larger, mature, and sophisticated companies have avoided entering into a PEO relationship.  Surety HR is a sister company of Spooner Incorporated – an unrivaled TPA and consulting firm with less than 2% client turnover.  Because of this foundation, our focus is more on lowering workers’ comp premiums instead of bundling services that you may not need or want.  It also means if and when you decide it’s time to exit the PEO, the process will b

Where is BWC's Group Retro Program Headed?

Posted By Brandy King
June 11, 2021 Category: OHio BWC, Workers Comp, Group Retro, ACES, Claim Reserves, Group Retro Assessments

  In our last few blogs and newsletters, we’ve been updating you on the changes we’re noticing in Ohio BWC’s Group Retro program.  Initially, there was the withholding of 2018 and 2019 refunds (six total payouts for participating employers). Then, we began noticing the overall degradation of retro refunds.  Most recently, we’ve noticed how BWC’s changes to their claim reserve calculations are having a tremendous impact on the performance of Group Retro pools.  For those of you who didn’t read our post about reserve calculations, here’s an abridged version: workers’ comp claims have a dollar amount reserved at the onset of a claim (yes, even if you do salary continuation) for additional funds that the insurer thinks it may end up costing.  BWC’s method of calculating reserves changed in January 2021 and Spooner’s tracking of these trends show reserves increasing as much as 1900% on some claims. Why does it matter? That pretend money is treated like real money when your experience is calculated for the next year, determining your premiums. That $5000 ankle sprain is now a $29,000 ankle sprain, and the insurer (BWC) will recoup their losses from you accordingly.  We’ve been tracking the impact these reserves have on Group Retro, and it shows a vast majority of the pools underperforming.  Some competitors even show the possibility of an assessment, meaning that policyholder

Another Successful Open Enrollment for Spooner Medical Administrators

Posted By Brandy King
June 11, 2021 Category: MCO, Open Enrollment, Medical Costs, Workers Compensation, Managed Care Organizations, Ohio BWC

Our MCO, Spooner Medical Administrators, had another successful open enrollment this past May! We realize that marketing can be very cut-throat (and not always transparent) during the short biennial enrollment period, and other MCOs may have offered you the moon to stray from SMAI.  Despite what other MCOs and the BWC’s report card might say about SMAI - we continue to have controlled, steady growth and incredible retention.  The Spooner family of companies would like to thank the thousands of businesses that chose to retain SMAI as their MCO, and the hundreds of new companies that chose SMAI as their new partner.  We look forward to continuing to build our relationships with you and are thankful for our 12th consecutive successful

Learn More About Our MEP 401(k) Program

Posted By Brandy King
June 11, 2021 Category: Finance, Retirement Plans, MEP, 401k, Small Employer, Mid Sized Employer, Benefits, Retention Tools, Financial Security

Want to learn more about The Spooner Risk Control Services, Inc. MEP 401(k)?  If your company has thought of offering a retirement plan, but the idea has been sidelined by the (typically) tremendous costs and complications of putting it in place, we'd like to invite you to learn more about our multi-employer plan (MEP). Spooner clients of any size can take advantage of our MEP Retirement Plan Solution for themselves and their employees.  Fiduciary support and guidance is provided for you as an employer, and for your employees. Take advantage of Spooner’s economy of scale and save on plan costs and administrative time, plus take advantage of potential tax credits for starting a retirement plan.  What is a Multiple Employer 401(k) Plan or MEP? A MEP is an IRS approved 401(k) that allows unaffiliated employers to adopt into a retirement plan sponsored by a third party that bears responsibility for administering the plan (Spooner, in this case). Our MEP is a great way to provide your employees with a retirement plan without the costly price tag for setup, maintenance costs, and fiduciary liabilities. What are the advantages of Spooner’s MEP? It's easy. By joining our MEP, most of your administration work is done by another party. It's inexpensive. The MEP provides large-plan pricing regardless of your company’s size. It provides for your employees. Independent, no-commissions advice to balance your employees’ needs

Safety Council Program Update

Posted By Brandy King
June 11, 2021 Category: Ohio Bwc, Bwc Safety Council, Safety Council Program, PAR, Workers' Comp, Premium Savings,

Ohio BWC’s Safety Council Rebate Program will remain suspended for the 2021 policy year (7/1/21-6/30/22).  While many safety councils are still hosting web-based meetings each month, no rebates will be paid. This means attendance is not mandatory, but Spooner still urges its clients to participate in safety council events to stay educated and use the info to help reduce incidents.  •    All meetings will continue to be virtual •    There will be no semi-annual reports collected in 2021 •    BWC will host two virtual statewide safety council meetings  •    No rebates will be paid While the Safety Council Rebate is unavailable in the coming year, there are other cost-saving programs available through BWC that may be worth exploring.  Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program – A reimbursement program for substance use policy development, training and drug testing  (currently available in participating counties but soon to rollout statewide) Better You, Better Ohio! –  A health and wellness program where employees can earn incentives  Policy Activity Rebate (PAR)  - A customizable plan that allows employers to earn a rebate. Employers enrolled in Group Rating, Group Retro, Individual Retro and Deductible program are not eligible for

Why We Fight (For Your Group Retro Refunds)

Posted By Brandy King
June 11, 2021 Category: Ohio BWC, Group Retro, Refunds, Dividends, 2018 PY, 2019 PY, State Fund

  Many Ohio employers have rejoiced over the big checks issued by Ohio BWC in the last few years, a boast that the state’s strategies that have yielded enough to share dividends with policyholders. While it’s easy to understand the excitement when you’re getting five, six, or even seven figure checks from BWC – we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  Many of the businesses gladly cashed those checks not realizing that Ohio BWC wouldn’t be sending checks for refunds earned from the Group Retrospective (retro) program for the 2018 and 2019 policy years.  Employers who participate in the Group Retro program are rebated after the policy year ends, based on their group’s actual performance throughout the year. The pool establishes a premium level throughout the policy year - and when the actual losses come in lower than that, the consortium members are rebated their share of the difference.  While no vendors were provided with the total that Group Retro refunds would have been for those years, Spooner’s actuarial department estimates that Group Retro refund totals for all participating policyholders during those years would have been as follows: •    $190,000,000 for the 2018 policy year   •    $155,000,000 for the 2019 policy year  These projections include what would be all three years of refund payments for each policy year, not just the first y

Surprise, It's OSHA! Dos and Don'ts for Surprise Inspections

Posted By Brandy King
June 09, 2021 Category: OSHA, OSHA Inspections, Surprise Inspection, Opening Conference, Informal Conference, OSHA Compliance, Safety, LO/TO, OSHA 300, Recordkeeping

Under the new administration, we have already seen a significant difference in approaches compared to the previous ones. Here is a recent example: An employee gets his arm caught in a machine and is hospitalized. Historically, in addition to the standard 5 years of OSHA 300/300A - OSHA would be looking at the machine and requesting the Lock Out/Tag Out (LO/TO) program. Now when OSHA shows up, it may look more like this: They look at the machine, request LO/TO and their written HazCom GHS program, Employee Orientation (onboarding) program, all LO/TO training documentation for Authorized and Affected employees, PPE Hazard Assessments, work instruction/training on machine in question, and Forklift Training Documentation. Is all of this requested material directly related to the incident? Not exactly - but they're going to expect you to supply it, regardless.  Having said that, Spooner is encouraging all of our clients to review their OSHA Compliance, which should include all your written programs, sub-elements under those programs, and your facility. If you think you have nothing to worry about, ask yourself this: Once OSHA is in our facility, could we supply all of that requested documentation?    Speaking of having OSHA at the door, we get a lot questions (and panicked phone calls) on that subject. To help you navigate that anxiety-inducing situation, here are some basic steps to take if you receive a “surprise” visit

Updates to OSHA’s Electronic Submission Requirements

Posted By Brandy King
June 09, 2021 Category: OSHA, 300A, Injury Reporting, Safety, Compliance

Have you been submitting your 300A online?  OSHA has required online submission of the 300A for a few years, and now they’re going to start ensuring companies have been submitting them during inspections. What does the rule require? The new rule, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2017, requires certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness data that they are already required to record on their onsite OSHA Injury and Illness forms. Analysis of this data will enable OSHA to use its enforcement and compliance assistance resources more efficiently. Some of the data will also be posted to the OSHA website. OSHA believes that public disclosure will encourage employers to improve workplace safety and provide valuable information to workers, job seekers, customers, researchers and the general public. Compliance schedule The new reporting requirements: •         Establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must submit information from their 2021 Form 300A by March 2, 2022. •         Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries must submit information from their 2021 Form 300A by March 2, 2022. https://www.osha.gov/injuryreporting/  New Enforcement  OSHA has set enforcement guidance regarding potential violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) rule requiring electronic submittal of i

Looking Ahead: 2022 Ohio BWC Program Enrollment For the Savvy Buyer

Posted By Brandy King
June 09, 2021 Category: General

  Even though the 2021 BWC policy year won’t start until next month (7/1/21), we’re already getting out quotes for 2022 Group Rating and Group Retro programs. It can be hard to feel like a savvy buyer when it comes to workers’ comp in Ohio, but Spooner would like to share some pointers for how to understand the timeline and choose the best partner.   If you’re thinking of changing your partner for Group Rating or Group Retro, be sure not to complete the renewal that your current TPA sends this summer. Most employers don’t realize that signing a form and cutting a check in June 2021 will obligate them to stay with their current TPA through June of 2023. Make sure your accounting team is aware of this, too. We’ve seen too many unhappy customers of other TPAs get trapped this way.  Are you under the impression that because you’re a member of XYZ Chamber of Commerce, you have to utilize their partner for workers’ comp programs? Not the case! The sponsoring organization frames it that way because there’s money on the table.  For example, if you are a XYZ Chamber member (who is partnered with Sedgwick) and you want to leave Sedgwick, XYZ Chamber makes less money. Naturally, they want you to stay with Sedgwick and may even advise you can’t get that discount outside of their partnership. This is patently false. Most TPAs have access to all of the same Group Rating and Group Retro programs for all in

Continued COVID Guidance: New OSHA ETS, FFCRA Update, Mask Mandates and Re-Entry following Travel

Posted By Brandy King
June 09, 2021 Category: FFCRA, ARPA, FMLA, EFMLA, Ohio Mask Mandate, Dewine, Compliance, COVID 19, Employer Requirements, Employee Leave, International Travel, OSHA ETS, Emergency Temporary Standard, Healthcare Industry

June 2021 OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard  More guidance has been issued from OSHA, directed at healthcare industry employers such as hospitals, emergency responders, long term care, etc. The new Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for Covid-19 went into effect June 10, 2021.  You can find a great summary here that also includes a link to the flowchart on OSHA.gov.    June 2021 COVID & FFCRA Update The FFCRA was mandatory for many employers until December 31 of 2020.  The previous administration extended the paid leave provisions of the FFCRA through March 31, 2021 – however, the extension was no longer mandatory. If employers chose to provide paid leave benefits due to COVID, they were still eligible to receive the tax credit to offset the costs of paying employee leave.  Additionally, President Biden extended the FFCRA provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) through September 30, 2021.  Biden also added some new components of the paid leave, which include: •    Additional reasons employees can take paid leave        o    Time spent in order to get the vaccine        o    Time from work missed due to complications from the vaccine  •    The 80 hour limit reset on April 1, 2021        o    Meaning if an employee exhausted their Paid Sick Leave before Ma

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