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Changes in workers' compensation may be ahead

Workers' compensation in Ohio and throughout the country could be affected by the 2016 presidential election. For example, under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Labor had recommended a revamp of the workers' compensation system that would set minimum standards for state programs. However, with a new administration in place that favors less government involvement, those changes might not be coming.

The replacement or repeal of the Affordable Care Act might also affect workers' compensation. Furthermore, during the Obama administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration shifted its focus to enforcement from education, and this might change as well. Other changes under the Obama administration included increased enforcement of the Family and Medical Leave Act and Americans With Disabilities Act. It is unclear whether this increased enforcement and expansion of regulations will continue.

Long-term costs are another concern. Medical advances, more lifetime claims and new medications could mean higher costs, and if premiums are lower, this could cause a problem. Another change is occurring in the growing recognition of mental health issues in the workplace. More employers are offering programs to address these issues. Use of both opioids and marijuana may need to be addressed with the growing legalization of marijuana leading to a need to determine what constitutes impairment under its influence.

The process of applying for workers' compensation can be complicated even when some regulations do not appear to be in flux. For example, an employer might tell workers that they are ineligible or might retaliate against them for applying. However, most workers who are injured on the job or who become ill because of exposure to hazardous materials on the job have the right to apply for benefits. An attorney can often assist with the preparation and filing of a claim.

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