Keith to handle BWC claims

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 19, 2008

The city of Ironton has hired a person to deal exclusively with Bureau of Workers’ Compensation claims.

Three weeks ago, the Ironton City Council approved making Katrina Keith the claims specialist for the city. Keith has spent the past four and half years as the mayor’s secretary.

The BWC is a state agency that provides medical and compensation benefits for work-related injuries, diseases and deaths for municipalities and businesses.

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Getting one person to deal with the claims and the education about the BWC became a priority for Ironton mayor Rich Blankenship after the claims hit more than $223,000 last year.

Previously, the finance department handled the BWC claims.

“Due to the lack of personnel in the finance department, it was difficult for them to handle this on a day-to-day basis,” Blankenship said. “There is a lot of paperwork, a lot of meetings, a lot of safety meetings and because of the staffing, they weren’t able to do that.”

Blankenship discussed the matter with City Council and Finance Director Kathy Elam and it was decided to hire a person to do the job on a full-time basis.

Keith said the goal is to reduce claims, educate employees about their benefits and safety issues and get employees healthy and back to work in a timely manner.

“We want to keep our workers safe, it’s not just about saving the city money,” she said. “We appreciate our employees. They do a lot of work to maintain this city and we have to make sure they are taken care of.”

Keith said each department would have safety meetings and set up safety measures to reduce the number of employees being injured, which keeps them healthier and reduces the number of claims that go to BWC.

Keith said the meetings and measures are needed.

“When a claim is filed, a reserve is automatically set aside to cover the possible expenses of the claim,” Keith explained. The city pays a premium on all open claims, and all closed claims not yet settled. “Implementing safety policies will not only protect our employees, it will minimize the number of claims that are filed.”

“We went from $71,000 to $206,000 over a period of maybe five years,” she said. “If we can save that extra money, there could be raises. There could be updated equipment instead of paying these BWC claims. We take our taxpayers dollars seriously.

We have hard working employees that deserve to work in a safe environment.”

The city is trying to reduce the amount of claims because the BWC considers Ironton in a penalty phase.

“Anything over $99,000 is a penalty phase,” Blankenship said. “So we are going to work full time to reduce that.”

Originally, the plan was for Keith to be both the claims specialist and the mayor’s secretary but Blankenship said it was too much.

So the goal now is save the equivalent of Keith’s salary and more, Blankenship said.

“We need to get out of penalty phase,” he said. “Right now we are considered high risk so we pay more to the BWC.”