Workers’ comp fraud lands cheaters costly penalties

Convicts include Central Ohio doc ordered to pay $71K to BWC

Four Ohioans convicted or sentenced for workers’ compensation fraud in April include a Central Ohio physician who unlawfully distributed controlled substances and overbilled the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

On April 15, U.S. Judge Michael Wilson of the Southern District of Ohio ordered Kedar Deshpande, MD, to pay $117,122 in restitution, including $70,957 to BWC. The judge also sentenced Deshpande to three years of supervised release, 12 months of which is to be served under home detention, for felony counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances and false statements relating to health care matters.

“Our Special Investigations Department found Dr. Deshpande upcoded patient office visits by falsely representing the level of examination he performed on our injured workers so he could receive inflated reimbursement from BWC,” said BWC Interim Administrator/CEO John Logue. “Congratulations to our investigators for their work on this important case and for bringing three other fraud cases to a close last month.”

Deshpande is the former owner and operator of the now-closed Orthopaedic & Spine Center, which had three locations in Central Ohio. A multi-jurisdictional task force of state and federal authorities found Deshpande pre-signed blank prescriptions for unqualified and non-licensed staff to complete and dispense to patients in his absence. The staff would fill-in the prescriptions with Schedule II controlled substances before dispensing to patients. The staff would mostly dispense the pre-signed prescriptions when Deshpande was on vacation, arrived late to the office, or was otherwise not at the clinic.

Other April fraud cases include:

William Knox of Athens, Ohio

Knox pleaded guilty April 7 in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court to one count of workers’ compensation fraud and one count of forgery, both fourth-degree felonies. Knox was sentenced to community control for five years and ordered to pay BWC restitution of $131,752.

BWC investigators found Knox inflated his weekly income from his employer of record so he could be paid at a higher weekly rate of compensation from BWC.

Tanya Houston of Shaker Heights, Ohio

A Franklin County judge ordered Houston to pay $23,489 to BWC and serve five years of probation in lieu of a one-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud on April 7. BWC discovered Houston working while collecting injured-worker benefits.

Frank Phillips of Hamilton, Ohio

Phillips pleaded guilty April 26 in Franklin County to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, for working while receiving BWC disability benefits. He was ordered to pay BWC $12,588 in restitution and serve five years on community control.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Convicted of fraud, nurse ordered to pay BWC $23K in restitution

Felony conviction for Shaker Heights woman

A Cleveland-area nurse was ordered to pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $23,000 in restitution April 7 after BWC discovered her working while collecting injured-worker benefits.

A Franklin County judge ordered Tanya Houston, 46, of Shaker Heights to pay $23,489 to BWC and serve five years of probation in lieu of a one-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.

“We’re here to provide compensation for people who can’t work because of an on-the-job injury, not supplement the income of fraudsters cheating our system,” said BWC Interim Administrator John Logue. According to BWC’s Special Investigations Department, Houston was working as a therapeutic program nurse when she injured herself in June 2019. As she collected disability benefits from BWC for the injury, she continued to work for a second employer without informing BWC, the employer where her injury occurred, or her physician and other treatment providers.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Hazard communication training made easy

By Cari Gray, CSP, BWC Safety Consultant Specialist

If you’ve hired new employees, have people taking on new roles, or you’re working with new chemicals in the workplace, it’s time to refresh your hazard communication training.

What pops into your mind when you think of hazard communication training? Painfully dry, long videos and PDF documents? Employees staring blankly, almost dozing off?

Or maybe you’re thinking of an awesome four-part micro training video series with a training guide and knowledge assessment. I’m happy to tell you that’s just what we’ve added to our Ohio BWC YouTube channel for you! 

You heard (or read) me right! We’re offering an easier way to start your hazard communication training. These videos range from 3-5 minutes (meant to keep the attention of even the most scattered “squirrel”) and cover the basics of hazard communication. We also created a training guide and knowledge assessment that can be your friend in guiding and documenting training.  

I could write pages and pages on this this, but in the spirit of these micro videos, I will sign off and keep this to the point. Remember, these were created with you in mind by your Ohio BWC Safety friends. Try it out today and feel free to add questions to your in-house knowledge assessment. 

You can watch all four videos below:

Remember – keep it simple, keep it safe, and keep it interesting. You can make a great impact in safety!

Online Medical & Health Symposium is a big success!

Virtual symposium breaks registration records

By John Annarino, Chief Medical and Health Officer  

Together, we did it. We appreciate the thousands of attendees who joined us worldwide for our first-ever virtual Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium this past Thursday through Saturday.

By going virtual, registration increased by nearly five times our 2019 in-person symposium.

I am elated, what an incredible response! We are thrilled that more than 4,800 health care and legal professionals from 45 states and 11 countries registered to attend our three-day conference.

Continuing education

This year we had another first – we offered continuing education for 16 health care professions, an increase of six from 2019.  In addition, we continued offering continuing legal education for our inter-disciplinary conference. Experts worldwide are learning about our innovative approaches and programs in caring for Ohio’s workers. Here’s our symposium’s brochure, event guide, and blogs.

Our symposium also expanded by offering three educational tracks – the provider staff forum (Thursday morning), our first ever, vocational rehabilitation workshop (Thursday afternoon), and the provider clinical education (Friday and Saturday). Our medical and claims policy experts teamed up to present at our staff forum for medical staff members and administrators.  

Combat burn survivor SSG (Ret) Shilo Harris and his wife/caregiver Jamie PK shared their story of resilience and success after tragedy.

Governor Mike DeWine kicked off the symposium virtually each day welcoming our attendees and thanking them for their service to all Ohioans. Training Officer Amanda Tedrick emceed the event and introduced the speakers.

Saturday’s clinical education speakers included two physician brothers, Joseph Choo, M.D., and Michael Choo, M.D., who discussed COVID-19 clinical insights and updates. They reiterated that getting vaccinated will help Ohio reach herd immunity, which may decrease the prevalence of COVID-19 for all of us. They also noted the importance of continuing to wear our masks and practicing social distancing.

During our symposium breaks, attendees visited our exhibitors and viewed their videos, answered BWC trivia questions, and watched additional content information in short video segments. Some of them included Navigating our Provider Page, injured worker return-to-work stories, and Getting to Know our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bradley Lewis.

Interim Administrator/CEO John Logue closed the symposium each day with dialogue between the final session’s speakers and offered related information about BWC initiatives.

Thank you!

Along with our Chief of Medical Operations Debi Kroninger and other Medical and Health Division leaders and team members, I would like to offer a special thanks to our exceptional speakers, volunteers, and participants for assisting in this unique, multi-disciplinary event that we offer at no cost to attendees.

This will definitely have an impact on the ways our industry and providers take care of injured workers. I’m deeply proud of all involved.

South Point Village adds new safety equipment for first responders, takes great strides improving safety program

By Roger Hoback, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

When posed with the question of how to use their portion of the $5 billion dividend that BWC sent to private and public employers in late 2020, South Point Village decided to put safety first. South Point Mayor Jeff Gaskin told BWC that the village’s portion of the dividend was primarily used to purchase automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) for police, fire, and village personnel.

With the AEDs, village first responders and personnel will be able to provide medical services faster, with hope to save more lives. Police and fire departments sometimes beat emergency medical services to the scene of a medical emergency. They can use the AEDs to begin the potentially lifesaving process faster.

Each police car will now have an AED onboard.  The village hall and sewer plant will also have an AED onsite.

South Point village didn’t stop at AEDs. Mayor Gaskin said the village also used funds from the dividend to purchase three new chainsaws for the fire department and four new chainsaws for the police department to be used for emergency response. They also purchased backup generators for village essential services.

South Point Village has been taking strides to make its community safer, even before these recent purchases. They’re partnering with three of us from the Portsmouth loss prevention team to improve their safety and health programs and become more self-sufficient. I’ve been helping them review written safety programs and policies, review safety training programs, conduct safety walk-through inspections of village operations, and conduct virtual safety training for utility department employees.

Ergonomist Greg Nartker has been helping with job-specific ergonomic evaluations and review of equipment options to reduce future work-related musculoskeletal disorder type injuries. Industrial Hygienist Devin Keplinger is helping with air monitoring in confined spaces and training.

The village has also taken advantage of two different BWC safety grants. In the past year, they applied for and received nearly $20,000. With a Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant, the village purchased a washer for turnout gear, structural firefighter gloves, and Nomex hoods for members of its fire department. Also, with a Trench Safety Grant, they purchased an aluminum shoring box for their village employees performing trenching and excavation work. These employees also trained in trenching and excavation safety.

South Point Village has also been an active member of the Lawrence County Safety Council. 

Working with employers like South Point Village is the most rewarding part of my job. With all their efforts, there is no question that the safety and health of the village’s employees, first responders, and citizens is top priority.

BWC’s Medical & Health Symposium starts today

Earn free continuing education  

By Debi Kroninger, Chief of Medical Operations

Our virtual 2021 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium kicks off today!

Join more than 4,000 registrants from around the world for three days of educational sessions designed to inform, inspire, and even entertain health care providers, their staffs, legal professionals, and people in the workers’ compensation industry.

For your review, here’s our symposium brochure and event guide.

It’s not too late to register for the free event, themed, “Comprehensive Care for Injured Workers.” You can register on any day of the symposium, but the sooner you register, the more you will learn about today’s most pressing health and medical issues facing all of us.

Three tracks, three days

I’m confident this symposium will be the best one ever!

It includes 16 sessions led by state and national experts on health and medical topics that affect all of us— at work and at home. It offers continuing-education opportunities with credits for many health care and legal professionals.

Our symposium features a Provider Staff Forum (Thursday morning), a Vocational Rehabilitation Workshop (Thursday afternoon), and a two-day Provider Clinical  Education track (Friday and Saturday). In addition, we can’t wait to connect you with our exhibitors! You may virtually visit our exhibitors during your breaks.

Today’s Provider Staff Forum highlights an overview of basic tools and resources for managing the day-to-day operations of workers’ compensation processes and workflows. This afternoon, our Vocational Rehabilitation Workshop features Linda Hedenblad, MSE, CRC, MINT, speaking on ethical decision making and resilience for anyone interested in these vital topics in today’s world. 

Vision

Our 2021 symposium brings medical and health specialists together with legal professionals to learn how we can better solve far-reaching issues. These include where medical and legal intersect, substance abuse disorder, COVID-19 clinical insights, violence in the workplace, delayed recovery, return to work, and multi-disciplinary treatment programs. 

Friday and Saturday’s Provider Clinical Education sessions cover the latest topics impacting patient care and providers.

Triumph, recovery, and human connection 

In addition, you don’t want to miss our inspiring stories of triumph and recovery. On Friday morning, burn survivor SSG (Ret) Shilo Harris and his wife/caregiver Jamie PK will share their story of resilience and success following serious combat injuries.

Saturday morning, Tim Ryan, founder of A Man in Recovery Foundation, and his wife, actress Jennifer Gimenez-Ryan, are sharing their personal and professional life stories of addiction and recovery. Later that day, two physician brothers, Joseph Choo, M.D., and Michael Choo, M.D., will review COVID-19 insights from their clinical perspectives.

Closing out the symposium is bestselling author Jon Petz, CSP, discussing the power of human connection with your patients. If you have questions, email medsymposium@bwc.state.oh.us.

Together, join us in our journey of providing innovative and quality health care focused on Ohio’s injured workers, their families, and communities. We look forward to seeing you virtually today through Saturday at our 2021 Medical & Health Symposium!

New facilities eligible for indoor air quality funding

Over the past year, we’ve learned a lot about COVID-19, including the impact indoor air quality (IAQ) has on the spread of COVID-19. That’s why we’re so proud to offer the COVID-19 Indoor Air Quality Assistance Program. The program started in December 2020 and has received over 700 applications so far.

Because of the success of the program and the positive feedback we’ve received, we’ve decided to expand the number of eligible facilities. Previously, the program was limited to nursing homes, assisted living centers, and adult day centers. We’ll now include:

  • Intermediate care facilities.
  • Hospices.
  • Senior centers.
  • Adult care facilities.
  • Waiver settings (group homes).
  • Substance use treatment centers.

With the inclusion of these new facilities, we’ll be able to protect additional vulnerable Ohioans. If your facility falls under one of these categories, we encourage you to apply today. The program offers up to $15,000 in reimbursement to inspect heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, assess air quality needs, and make improvements through maintenance, increased filtration, portable air cleaners, and other interventions.

If you’ve made any improvements to your HVAC systems throughout the pandemic, we encourage you to apply. The program will reimburse costs incurred from March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Applications are open until June 30, 2021.

Not an eligible facility?

If your facility doesn’t fall under one of these categories to qualify for funding, don’t worry, we have resources for you too. We know that maintaining safe and heathy IAQ is imperative to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so we’ve put together some resources your facility can use to learn more.

You can watch a recording of one of our IAQ webinars here:

For more on IAQ, we encourage you to check out these resources:

Visit our website to apply now. You can also contact BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene or call 1-800-644-6292 with questions.

2021 Medical & Health Symposium – Get informed and inspired!

Register now for our virtual event April 8-10

By Debi Kroninger, Chief of Medical Operations

Each year at the conclusion of our annual Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium, I ask myself this question: How are we going to top this next year?

Without fail, I am floored every year by the impressive lineup of speakers who educate, inspire, and uplift our conference attendees and each other, including health care providers, attorneys, workers comp experts, and anyone else dedicated to improving the lives of injured workers.

I’m sure I’ll have that question again this year following our first-ever virtual Medical & Health Symposium April 8-10. COVID-19 precludes an in-person event this year, but my team worked hard to create a symposium that will be no less engaging or enlightening. Consider just a few of our topics and speakers:

  • The Neurobiology of Substance Use Disorder – Listen to Dr. Jon E. Sprague, the director of science and research for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. An Eminent Scholar at Bowling Green State University, Dr. Sprague will take a deep dive on drugs associated with substance use disorder.
  • When Life Blows Up: From Tragedy to Triumph – Overcoming tragedy and living a successful life after combat, burn survivor SSG (Ret) Shilo Harris and his wife/caregiver Jamie PK share their story of resilience and success after tragedy. They will share their story of successes and the many tools used to overcome extreme odds. Their goal is to share their outline of success for you to share with others and hopefully help them get back to living their lives.
  • From Dope to Hope: A Man in Recovery –This spellbinding presentation chronicles Tim Ryan’s journey through addiction and offers practical tools for prevention and recovery. Ryan will offer solutions that are non-opiate based for people struggling with substance use disorder and provide other methods and resources to get people on the road to recovery. He’ll be joined by his wife, actress Jennifer Gimenez-Ryan, who will share her personal and professional life story of addiction and recovery.

And more. Lots more, including clinical insights into COVID-19, preventing delayed recovery, violence in the workplace, and the power of human connection with bestselling author Jon Petz. After listening to Jon, you’ll appreciate the little moments that connect you with patients. You’ll leave with a different perspective on rendering care to injured workers.

In addition, we’re seeking continuing education for physicians, attorneys, psychologists, and many others.

All of this for the low, low price of FREE. Plus, you can enjoy it from the comfort and safety of your home or office.

In the end, you may not have the question that challenges me each year, but I’m confident you’ll feel uplifted and energized, leaving with this thought: This is why I do what I do.

For more information, including a full list of speakers, session topics, and registration information, be sure to check out the symposium’s website. You may also call our provider contact center at 1-800-644-6292, options 0-3-0, or email medsymposium@bwc.state.oh.us.

My role at BWC has changed during the pandemic — and I couldn’t be prouder

By Vern Davenport, Security Manager, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

I am not a doctor, a nurse, or health care provider of any kind, but I am saving lives and protecting the health of my fellow Ohioans.

I am but one player in our state’s continued battle to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’m a critical player – I drive a truck. I work with my colleagues in BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) and with the state’s Emergency Operations Center to deliver ventilators, test kits, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care settings, hospitals, and front-line workers across our state.

Vern loads a pallet of air filters onto the BWC box truck. His pickups and destinations have been all over Ohio, including down Amish country gravel roads. “I kept an eye out for a horse and buggy to help get me out in case I went off the road,” Vern said with a laugh.

That’s not what I signed up for at BWC – as security manager, my role is the safety and security of all BWC buildings – but I couldn’t be prouder to serve in this role today. I’m even more proud to report this milestone: My SID colleagues and I just passed a huge milestone – delivering more than 3.5 million pieces of PPE and other essential equipment as we hit the one-year mark of COVID-19 in our lives. This includes face masks, protective gowns, face shields, sanitizer, pop-up testing equipment, and more.

I’m like many in our agency who pivoted in March 2020 to help our state defeat COVID-19 in any way we could. We’ve sent millions of masks to Ohio businesses, returned $8 billion in dividends to those same businesses, and lent our customer service specialists to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services when unemployment claims soared.

When the pandemic sent most of us home to telework, it freed me and others in SID to contribute in other ways.

Every state agency has representatives in Ohio’s Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates the COVID-19 response. BWC has been asked consistently to fill in the delivery gaps, so I’ve taken pallets of PPE and other supplies to every corner of the state, including viral test kits to Cleveland and equipment to build pop-up test sites in Cincinnati. On a run in late February, I dropped off 259,000 face masks in Cleveland on behalf of the Department of Aging.

For me, each delivery is a source of pride because I know how critical these items are to the health and safety of every Ohioan.

It’s not just the state agencies pulling together, though. Individuals and businesses throughout Ohio have stepped up. I’ve picked up gallons of hand sanitizer made at a Cleveland microbrewery and delivered it to a National Guard distribution center in Columbus. Another mission took me to a Columbus paper plant, which had shifted its production to making masks and donated them to the state. We truly are #InThisTogether.

I drove a box truck for a food distributor for 14 years, so this “new” role isn’t so new to me. The only difference now is I wear a tie every day, as I’ve always done since joining BWC in 1994. I like wearing it and the professionalism it brings. The folks at the warehouses I frequent shout, “Hey, it’s The Tie Guy!”

Whenever Vern Davenport makes regular warehouse pickups in the box truck, the folks always shout, “Hey, it’s The Tie Guy!” Vern hasn’t stopped wearing a tie since his first day on the job at BWC in 1994, and he’s definitely the most well-dressed delivery guy in the Emergency Operations Center.

That kind of lighthearted banter is what we all need. The pandemic’s emotional toll is every bit as concerning as the physical, and it’s important we lift each other up. So no matter where I go, I smile. I ask how people are and thank them for the job they’re doing.

For many of us in state government, the pandemic has redefined what we do and how we do it. I could not be prouder to get behind the wheel and represent BWC in this noble work.

Vern Davenport is the security manager for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, overseeing the safety and security of all BWC buildings statewide. He first joined the agency as a security contractor in 1994 and was hired as an employee in 2004.

Prevent COVID-19 spread through HVAC improvements

Indoor Air Quality focus of March 3 webinar

By Jeff Hutchins, MS, CIH, Regional Loss Prevention Manager

We all know a mask, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning can weaken the spread of COVID-19. So can improvements to your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

How to do that in a smart, step-wise fashion will be the subject of a free webinar we’re hosting from 2-3:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, in partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. Employers and building owners wanting to improve their indoor air quality will benefit from this webinar.

In the age of COVID-19, indoor air quality, or IAQ, has taken on a whole new dimension. Since the virus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted through the air, maintaining safe and healthy IAQ becomes a vital link in preventing the disease. It also reduces the risk of other indoor health concerns. (IAQ, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.)

Register for the webinar here.  (We will also offer the webinar during our Ohio Safety Congress & Expo  March 10-11.)

Topics covered include:

  • Increasing outside air and room (or building) air exchanges.
  • Improving central HVAC filtration.
  • Using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration to enhance central HVAC system air cleaning, particularly in high risk areas.
  • Deploying ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) as a supplement where increased ventilation and/or filtration options are limited.

The webinar also details BWC’s COVID-19 Indoor Air Quality Assistance Program. This federally funded program originally targeted nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult day centers, but we are expanding the program to include the following:

  • Intermediate care facilities.
  • Hospices.
  • Senior centers.
  • Adult care facilities.
  • Waiver settings (group homes).
  • Substance use treatment centers.

For more on IAQ, I encourage you to check out these resources: