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Ohio’s Work Comp Scandal – fallout continues

While we were paying attention to the mess uncovered by the Broward County School Board’s workers comp audit , Ohio’s workers comp scandal moved into new territory. A report from a panel appointed by Gov. Bob Taft (R) to review the mess in Ohio noted serious problems with oversight, financial controls, policies and procedures, and outside influences.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation writes all the WC insurance in the state, and its investments, which are reserves for payment of future claims, are overseen by a five member panel, none of whom have any investment expertise. Yikes.
Wait, it gets better.
The governor’s former chief of staff was convicted of failing to report several vacations at a home owned by a top campaign contributor, Tom Noe. Small potatoes? Not really – Noe was the guy who invested $50 million of BWC’s funds in rare coins, some of which were “lost in the mail”.
Taft has not escaped unscathed. According to the Akron Beacon-Journal, “Questions about Noe’s investment of state money led to a scandal that culminated in Gov. Bob Taft’s conviction last week on charges he was treated to numerous golf outings he failed to report, including two with Noe.”
And, this won’t end here. Noe, Taft’s former political ally, is contending that Taft knew about the coin investments way before the scandal hit the news. Taft denies this, claiming he first found out about them in news reports after the fact. Here’s the take from an Ohio TV station:
“In other developments Saturday, the Toledo-area coin dealer who managed the workers’ comp bureau investments in rare coins continued to push for Ohio Governor Bob Taft to retract statements in which he accused Tom Noe of concealing his involvement in the investments. Noe’s lawyer sent a news release that contended at least 16 members of Taft’s senior staff, as well as numerous other officials, knew about the arrangement. He also contends Noe and Taft spoke of the fund in a locker room at Inverness Club in Toledo during a May 13, 2001, golf outing.”
In addition, Federal officials informed the Ohio Attorney General that commissions charged by the BWC’s so-called investment advisers were much too high. However, Attorney General Petro evidently sat on the news, which came after the SEC tried for 16 months to get the BWC to take action. While it is unclear if there are or were any political links between Petro and the investors, given the smell emanating from the entire mess, it is certainly interesting that Petro did not take prompt action.
It looks like the governor’s office was treating the state’s workers comp insurer and its assets as their private playground, investing in wine, coins, and other highly questionable “assets”. So far, their efforts have cost the state over $300 million in losses.
Remember, these funds are set aside for workers who are injured, to cover their medical expenses and lost wages.
As much as I want to move on from this, it’s the proverbial train wreck; you just have to keep looking.

Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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