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Smallish potatoes

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014

* AP Chicago

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says the state’s workers’ compensation insurance rates will drop 5.5 percent next year.

Quinn announced Wednesday the cut in rates is being recommended by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, which annually reviews payments and fees and proposes new premium figures.

Illinois Department of Insurance officials are estimating the latest proposed reduction in workers’ compensation advisory and loss cost rates could result in overall reduction in premiums of up to $143 million in 2015. They say the total savings since the reforms were enacted in 2011 is expected to reach $458 million.

* Greg Hinz

Illinois Manufacturers’ Association President Greg Baise was considerably more restrained but still welcomed the news.

“More work needs to be done,” said Mr. Baise, whose organization has become a major supporter of GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner. “We applaud this news, but rates need to come down more if Illinois is to be competitive with competing Midwestern states.” […]

The workers’ comp system, which pays health expenses for injured workers, raises and spends about $3 billion a year, Mr. Baise said, so a savings of $450 million over three years would be only a fraction of that cost.

The declines are most certainly heading in the right direction, but Baise is right. The savings aren’t a whole lot in the grand scheme of things and much more needs to be done.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:13 am:

    But that’s it.
    In this campaign, Quinn needs to ensure that voters know this. The good news may be incremental, but Quinn’s campaign can’t make it sound incremental.

    Quinn beat Rauner when he consistently delivers good news, assuring voters that they don’t have to replace him.

  2. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:17 am:

    Is there a breakdown of where the Worker’s Comp $ goes in Illinois and other states. Keep hearing that Illinois has the third highest Worker’s Comp rates in the country, but isn’t Chicago the third most costly medical market in the country? Some more data would be appreciated.

  3. - 4 percent - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:20 am:

    The small steps are positive but there is a ton of work to do. The cost of a carpal tunnel claim in Illinois is 5-6 times cheaper than in Illinois. The second major issue is fraud.

    Both the 2005 and 2011 reforms had fraud provisions. According to the Department of Insurance’s own report, they have FAILED to “procure an implement” a system using data mining, social network analysis, predictive modeling and other means to “detect and prevent waste, fraud and abuse.” According to the report, there have been only 9 convictions in the last two years which is abysmal when compared to other states, counties, and cities.

    This is a major cost not only for Illinois businesses but also state and local governments.

  4. - 4 percent - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:20 am:

    I mean to say 5-6 times more expensive in Illinois than in Indiana.

  5. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    Did Baiser mention that Flip Rauner’s “plan” fpr wprk comp reform is to fire all the hearing officers and then not make new appointments?
    Another example of hos Flip is a “we Don’t Know & We Don’t Care” guy

  6. - walker - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:26 am:

    Well at least something the GA tried to do to save businesses money, actually saved them money.

  7. - Ahoy! - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:26 am:

    Even after the small savings, we’ll still be about the 3rd highest state in the nation for workers compensation costs.

  8. - PoolGuy - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:28 am:

    small potatoes still taste good

  9. - 4 percent - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:28 am:

    From a 2011 Chicago Tribune story… guess the savings came up a lot less than he estimated. $500 million a year versus the total of $458 over three years?

    Quinn’s office estimates the changes would save private employers at least $500 million a year, while cutting the state’s cost to cover its employees by at least $25 million.

  10. - walker - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:29 am:

    Have the Civvies both gone silent recently? This is in their strike zone.

    Perhaps they are laying low since they put their money and reputations on the pension reform bill.

  11. - Numbers - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:34 am:

    I think the Guv’s press release is confusing. If the market for workers’ comp is $3 billion and there is a 5% reduction this year, that translates into approximately $150 million of savings next year. If rates have cumulatively dropped 18% since reforms were passed, that should be about $450 million of savings each year going forward, not in total.

  12. - RNUG - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    Yes, it’s a small step, and bigger would have been better.

    But the truth is that a lot of small steps (not just work comp) have been taken since Quinn got in office; some have worked, some haven’t. Most of them don’t sound very exciting; nobody wants to hear the backlog got cut in half or the pension payments got made, they’d rather hear about new bridges and roads.

    Quinn actually has a decent narrative if he puts all the little things together; just needs to keep reminding the voters of the positive things.

  13. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    If Baise wants to really move the needle, he might want to check in with his friends at the Illinois State Medical Society.

  14. - goose/gander - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 11:02 am:

    the workers comp system is clearly broken, after all its not a free market system at all, but a form of cost contained monopoly. abolish it! why won’t Baise demand THAT reform? after all, thats the free market way biz likes, right?

  15. - Dirty Red - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 11:03 am:

    = We applaud this news =

    Hmm. Usually it’s a name receiving the applause instead of “this news.”

  16. - A guy... - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 11:30 am:

    In this state, any news where rates are going down vs. skyrocketing is worth celebrating. There is more work to do on this…and everything else. This represents a good incremental step in the right direction. Employers here don’t get much good news. I’m sure this is welcome to them.

  17. - A guy... - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 11:31 am:

    ===wordslinger - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    If Baise wants to really move the needle, he might want to check in with his friends at the Illinois State Medical Society.===

    You mean the needle on his blood pressure reading? lol

  18. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 11:38 am:

    If Chicago is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, shouldn’t their medical costs (which drive Workers’ Comp) be among the highest in the country?

  19. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 12:00 pm:

    You can not do a story on Baise and Quinn without mentioning Baise ran against Quinn for Treasurer.

    The two men have a political history that is important context for voters as the weigh Mr Baise’s statements.

  20. - A guy... - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 12:01 pm:

    Worker’s Comp rates have more to do with the type of work being done at a company. Manufacturing= Higher, Administrative= lower.

  21. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 12:04 pm:


    Where, how and why?

    The biggest driver of work comp costs are wages. Illinois wages are higher, so injured workers receive higher compensation when they are injured.

    Caterpillar of all companies has clearly demonstrated that companies can reduce their own work comp costs dramatically without reducing benefits to workers. It’s called “Improving Safety.”

    If caterpillar can do it, so can the rest of Illinois’ manufacturers.

  22. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 12:10 pm:


    Didn’t Quinn win by the largest margin in the 1990 races? Didn’t Quinn go after Baise for accepting meals as IDOT Secretary?

  23. - Strategery - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 12:52 pm:

    Does anyone want to do any real work in figuring out what “advisory rates” really are? I guess it is more productive to delve into “beergate” and see if the free tickets were more often used at the Miller or Bud Tent. (Headline: “State Fair Volunteers Used Free Tickets at Corona Tent for Sand Volleyball ‘Experience’”)

  24. - Frustrated Voter - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 1:12 pm:

    This 5.5% figure is completely meaningless without context. How does this decrease compare to decreases in other states? How do Illinois’ rates compare to its neighbors? I’m assuming Illinois’s rates are still substantially higher, or Quinn’s people would’ve mentioned it.

  25. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 1:51 pm:

    Anyone Remember:

    I know the margin was huge. I am sure Quinn wishes he could have banked that margin to cover the spread in future races.

    What he did or said to bury Baise in such a deep hole, I dunno.

    But I suspect it wasn’t very nice.

  26. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    Back to the post:

    Do we know why savings are smaller than originally hoped?

    Is it because, as with Medicaid, it turns out “eliminating waste, fraud and abuse” actually produces very little in savings? Or is it something else?

  27. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 2:40 pm:

    The ethics law of that age (don’t laugh) prevented receiving “any thing of value” and Baise had received some meals from some industry group (Asphalt Pavers?). Quinn kept repeating “any thing of value” endlessly.

  28. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 4:18 pm:

    Oh. Baise was part of the Cellini combine.

    Cellini was the first IDOT secretary, after he was bounced by Dan Walker, he became executive director of the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association.

    So, if Greg was eating on the paver’s dime, it was likely with Cellini.

    It’s a small world after all….

  29. - the Patriot - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 4:29 pm:

    First understand these reforms were driven by assumptions about fraud that were mostly proven to be false. Read the 2012 Inspector General Report for some insight.

    A lot goes into these numbers. Cat has taken many jobs out of the state, but even so, large companies have many options to reduce costs under self insurance programs that small companies don’t have due to economies of scale.

    Another problem with the numbers is the smaller the pool, the higher the insurance rate. With more companies leaving and basically none coming in, the pool shrinks. Work comp is the red headed step child of our economic woes, but a very unfriendly regulator environment is also to blame.

    We are literally siting on tens of thousands of high paying jobs in the coal industry. Our coal will produce less pollution than western coal per BTU produced, but we have just flat out decided coal is bad and we do not want to accept science to create jobs. Just one example.

  30. - One more thing - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 4:31 pm:

    No one mentions that if the State changed causation so less injuries were covered by workers’ compensation, the worker’s health insurance would pay for the medical costs, which thereby increases the cost of health insurance.

  31. - Matt Belcher - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 5:09 pm:

    Fair warning, I am a workers’ compensation lawyer.
    What is NCCI? They are the organization funded by the insurance industry that fixes prices for workers’ comp insurance in Illinois. (I’m not kidding, that’s not a misprint.)
    Speaking of NCCI, they report that 50.1% of the “cost” of workers’ compensation in Illinois is medical expense. So, the IMA is saying that doctors and hospitals charge too much in Illinois. Okay. How about someone calling up the State Medical Society and find out the explanation? Maybe insurance companies require medical providers to wait months, if not years, for reimbursement for workers’ comp claims; maybe the insurance companies require multiplicitous forms, written authorizations, nurse case managers, utilization review; all of which makes the physicians’ office inefficient, reduces reimbursements, and drives-up costs. We have high medical costs in Illinois – fine. How many readers of Crain’s/Capitol Fax go running to Kentucky or Indiana to see their cardiologist / plastic, brain or spine surgeon? (But nose jobs are so much cheaper in Evansville, Indiana!)
    The 2011 legislative change reduced medical reimbursement rates 30% across the board. I’m no math genius but a 30% reduction in 50% of the cost should have immediately resulted in a 15% decrease in the TOTAL cost of workers’ comp in Illinois, which the IMA pegs at $3 billion.
    Unfortunately, what has NOT been “reformed” (yet) is the insurance industry which never accurately reduced the premium costs to business so as to reflect the “savings” from the legislative change.
    I admit that you need to focus a bit here - over two hundred insurance companies seemed to profit handsomely in Illinois even before the 2011 changes - and they each assessed and collected the 2011 calendar year premiums (at the beginning of the year) based on historical data. But in the middle of the 2011 calendar year, the insurance industry immediately saved 30% of the underwritten medical “costs” when the reduction kicked in and thus saved 15% of $3 billion dollars ($450,000,000/year or $225,000,000 in 2011 alone).
    But the premiums were already collected for 2011, so where did that money go? Name one insurance company that paid out a refund to 2011 policy holders for that mid-year implementation of the 30% cost reduction in medical expense.
    What is the IMA’s position on insurance reform? I am not sure, but I think it’s most likely that it would “cause immediate, interminable collapse of the economy if implemented.”
    But let’s be candid. If it was up to the IMA, we would not have workers’ compensation, Social Security, unemployment insurance, minimum wage, Medicare, child labor laws, the EPA, the FTC, the FDA, the ADA, the EEOC, OSHA and innumerable other basic programs which they have steadfastly opposed because EACH supposedly was about to “cause the immediate, interminable collapse of the economy if implemented.” (Don’t get me started on what it means to be the 47th or 48th most expensive state - the IMA cannot even tell you if this meretricious “list” does, or does not, include the cost of defending disputed claims.)
    Recall that he forerunner organization to the IMA was organized to repeal the “Sweatshop Law of 1893” for crying out loud. And they succeeded! Because you-know, we all love a good sweatshop in Illinois.
    Yes, the IMA is right. More work needs to be done.
    We have already given doctors and hospitals a 30% pay-cut across the board, and we have already forced the injured workers to absorb about a 30% reduction in benefits; so now, we need to do more work to decrease insurance premiums by 30%; even if that means finally regulating the insurance industry, or exploring whatever steps are necessary to decrease workers’ compensation premiums in Illinois. Just sayin’.

  32. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 8:23 pm:

    @Matt Belcher:

    See my post at 1:54 pm.

    Thanks for answering my question.

    Not surprisingly, proponents of “reform” are unhappy because it turns out that actual “waste, fraud and abuse” are much lower than they originally argued.

    Like Medicaid “reform.”

    Like ethics “reform.”

    Like welfare “reform.”

    Like voter registration “reform.”

    And yet rather than acknowledge that fact, my good friends at the Chicago Tribune berate democrats for believing the business lobby ranting and actually budgeting the projected savings to spend.

  33. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 8:51 pm:

    If Quinn had any sense, he would have budgeted pension “reform” savings as real too.

    He could have balanced the budget while increasing spending, paid off all past due bills and rolled back the tax increase.

    “Mission Accomplished”

  34. - Matt Belcher - Thursday, Jul 31, 14 @ 10:08 pm:

    @Yellow Dog Democrat - I agree with the sentiment of your 8:23pm post; but, I also accept the Governor’s representation on the issue — he earnestly hoped by some shared sacrifice, that the cost of insurance would be significantly reduced for employers because the competitive forces of the “market” would cause insurance companies to compete with each other for the lowest premium price.

    And, the Governor was correct. Insurance premiums have been reduced now by 18% since 2011. That’s pretty significant.

    However, lets review:
    The doctors and hospitals lost 30% of their medical services revenue - $450,000,000 per year using the IMA and NCCI’s own numbers - for workers’ comp injuries that they previously used to hire staff, pay rent, buy equipment and pay salaries. Every year. Did insurance premiums go down $450,000,000 - every year? No.

    Likewise, injured workers had their right to benefits restricted - older workers now will lose their right to a wage loss differential at age 67, even if they had intended to keep working. Those workers - and others - just get pushed (externalized) onto taxpayer-funded benefit programs. You wonder why Social Security Disability filings are up? Thank workers’ comp “reform”.

    Those same workers, who already had damage caps imposed on them by operation of the Workers’ Comp Act now had their rights to benefits further restricted in 2011.

    And because they also had their 7th Amendment right to a jury trial taken from them by being injured at work, they cannot sue their employer for damages even when the accident was totally caused by the employer’s utter disregard for the safety of the worker.

    Some catastrophically injured workers that are permanently disabled live on about $400 per week - the more accurate name of the law has always been the “Employers’ Limited Liability Act” rather the just the Workers’ Compensation Act.

    Those same injured workers had about 1/3 of their benefits reduced. Did insurance premiums go down enough to offset those further benefit restrcitions? No. Not every year since 2011.

    So we can conclude that the only entity not “sharing” in the sacrifice appears to be the couple hundred insurance companies who in Illinois are allowed to price fix thier premiums.

    So what “reform” are we left with if the insurance companies are keeping the money themselves? Riddle me that!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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