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Workers' compensation changes debated

In return for approval of large taxes increases in Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner asked the General Assembly for workers' compensation reform to control costs in a special legislative session. Illinois manufacturers and businesses are charged the highest workers' compensation costs in the Midwest and the eighth highest in the nation.

The General Assembly already passed two Democratic-sponsored bills in the spring session. These are being sent to the governor.

One measure would create rate review. Government would conduct oversight of insurance companies and the rates charged to businesses and manufacturers.

Democratic lawmakers claim that hundreds of insurance companies in Illinois artificially raise business premiums, which makes the state's workers' compensation rates the highest in the Midwest. Insurance companies deny that they engage in this activity, which they consider illegal.

Their second bill creates a public insurance company to compete with the 300 insurance companies in this state. This company would be funded with $10 million in public funds.

Republicans and business organizations labeled these measures as artificial reforms, which would not reduce workers' compensation costs. They blamed workers' compensation costs for the loss of 300,000 manufacturing jobs in Illinois since 2000 even though other midwestern states had increases in these jobs.

One cost-containment proposal, supported by Republican lawmakers, would create a Medicaid fee schedule with rates limits surpassing Medicaid levels but that are more consistent with rates in other states. Their measure would also place controls on prescription costs. Proponents claim that this would save employers $120 million each year. This measure has not been brought for a vote.

Manufacturers and business groups also support introduction of a measure requiring a causation clause that would allow employers to challenge whether a worker suffered a work-related injury. This was not part of any reform measure in the legislature because of strong Democratic opposition.

A work accident victim should seek legal representation to help ensure that their right to compensation is protected. An attorney can help ensure that injured workers can utilize the laws to obtain deserved workers' compensation benefits and fight against employer's defenses.

Source: Illinois News Network, "Lawmakers debate competing workers comp measures during special session," Dan McCaleb and Greg Bishop, June 24, 2017

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