The Illinois Workers’ Compensation system is being challenged on multiple fronts, as Republicans in both the Illinois House and Senate are pushing bills to limit claims by injured workers, and a state audit has reported numerous problems with the system for paying injured state workers.
The Illinois House is considering H.B. 6145, which would give employers credits for past payments made to injured workers who sustained injuries to their “person as a whole.” The bill, introduced by llinois Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, has been sent to the House rules committee.
The Illinois Senate is considering a separate bill that is also purportedly intended to reduce workers’ compensation costs to the state. Senate Bill 2521 would expressly eliminate payments for idiopathic injuries – those injuries with an unknown or indeterminable cause. The proposed law would also require injured employees to receive care from a workers’ compensation physician within their employer’s preferred network. The bill, introduced by Republican state Sen. Kyle McCarter, has been referred to the state Senate’s executive committee.
Meanwhile, a state audit released on April 25 found “numerous shortcomings” in the workers’ compensation program for state workers. The report, authored by Auditor General Bill Holland, identified several problems with the system and urged lawmakers to address them. The audit indicates that workers’ compensation claims are paid out too readily without proper documentation.
Between 2007 and 2010, the period covered by the report, more than $295 million was paid out to injured workers. More than 75% of all injuries were for sprains and contusions. The audit identified problems with the system including failure to review the performance of arbitrators tasked with awarding compensation to injured workers, failure to train arbitrators, and the lack of a procedure to address conflicts of interest of those entrusted with handling State employees’ workers’ compensation cases.
The proposed changes follow on the heels of legislation passed last year by the Illinois legislature that made extensive changes to the workers’ compensation program. That law put caps on certain awards, required that arbitrators be licensed attorneys, and implemented measures aimed at fraud prevention. However, Holland’s report found that not all the changes ordered by the law had been put in place.
Workers’ compensation advocates see the proposed changes as nothing more than legislative pandering to the interests of lobbyists and big business. The proposed bills, according to those fighting their passage, would serve only to eradicate the already diminished rights of injured workers.
Robert Briskman is a Chicago workers compensation attorney and Chicago workers compensation lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.