The Ohio House of Representatives has signed off on legislation that would make first responders eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they have been diagnosed with work-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but haven’t suffered an “accompanying physical injury.”
House Bill 308, which drew support from first responders and opposition from associations that represent the state’s manufacturers, businesses and local governments, now heads to the state Senate for consideration.
State lawmakers originally included the provision in the two-year budget for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. However, the Senate removed it from the version it passed, prompting the introduction of HB 308.
“Ohio is stronger when we stand with working people, especially our first responders who sacrifice so much to serve our communities,” House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said in a statement.
“Part of Ohio’s fundamental promise is that everyone should be able to live, work and retire here with safety and security,” Sykes added. “For years, Democrats have pushed to extend coverage to first responders diagnosed with PTSD, and today’s vote is a step in the right direction – the least we can do to ensure our first responders and their families are taken care of during and after their time of dedicated public service to their communities.”
In a blog post, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce said the bill would result in “a substantial cost to employers since it is only a matter of time until employees other than first responders will receive employer funded coverage for mental only injuries.”
“This unintended consequence of passing HB 308 is very real because during the committee process groups have already advocated for physicians, truck drivers and bank tellers to receive workers’ compensation benefits without an underlying physical injury,” the organization said.
The legislation could increase annual PTSD claims and costs to the workers’ compensation system by an estimated $44 million in the first year, according to a Legislative Service Commission (LSC) estimate. A precise price tag depends on how many first responders are diagnosed and how much in benefits is paid.
“While we are extremely happy with this vote, we cannot stop the fight to get our first responders the appropriate help they need,” Michael P. Taylor, president of Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters, said in a Facebook post.
“The next step will be the push for the Ohio Senate to join the Ohio House in getting this powerful legislation to the Governor’s desk,” Taylor added. “I ask that you remain vigilant and continue this journey to help our brothers and sisters by bringing awareness to this serious issue.”