* Workers’ comp is essentially a no-fault system, designed to keep most disputes out of the courts. The judicial branch has added some exceptions over the years, but the business lobby has pushed for decades to add many more. Here’s Mark Denzler of the Illinois Manufacturers Association…
“Should the employer be on the hook to pay 100 percent of medical costs and wage payments to an injured worker if they’re not responsible for the majority of the accident? It really comes down to a matter of fairness. The business community, the IMA, we’re not looking to cut any benefits. We’re simply looking for fairness and reduce costs while still protecting injured workers.
* Jay Shattuck of the Illinois Chamber…
“Which means that the workplace must be at least 50 percent or more of the cause of the injury for it to be a workers’ compensation claim. That is what we would support.”
* Speaker Madigan has said that entirely giving in to the business groups would mean injured workers would wind up in costly emergency rooms and be pushed out of the middle class. Finding that 50 percent line could also mean more court cases.
* One reason why our national ranking may be so bad is that other states have been slashing benefits to the bone during the past few years. NPR…
The cutbacks have been so drastic in some places that they virtually guarantee injured workers will plummet into poverty. Workers often battle insurance companies for years to get the surgeries, prescriptions and basic help their doctors recommend. […]
The changes, often passed under the banner of “reform,” have been pushed by big businesses and insurance companies on the false premise that costs are out of control.
In fact, employers are paying the lowest rates for workers’ comp insurance since the 1970s.
* Benefits are also pretty high here because wages are high. Unions and their allies don’t want to see Illinois in a race to the bottom…
Workers are awarded a portion of their wages up to the state maximum for the specified number of weeks assigned to each body part. But depending on those numbers, the final amounts can vary widely.
The loss of an arm, for example, is worth up to $48,840 in Alabama, $193,950 in Ohio and $439,858 in Illinois. The big toe ranges from $6,090 in California to $90,401.88 in Oregon. […]
The amount of lost wages covered — capped at $220 a week — was set by the [Alabama] Legislature in 1985. But unlike other parts of Alabama’s workers’ comp law, it was never tied to inflation.
The amount is now the lowest in the country. Providing just $11,440 a year, it is below the poverty line for a single person and not even half the poverty line for a family of four. And benefits for arm amputations, for example, end after four years.
So, since business groups here aren’t pushing to reduce benefits, they have to find another way to save money: Causation.
* Another reason for our high costs often pointed to by Illinois Democrats is that insurance companies are not passing along savings (including significantly reduced fees for medical providers) which should’ve been produced by the state’s 2011 reforms…
And in 2013, insurers had their most profitable year in over a decade, bringing in a hefty 18 percent return.
* Rep. Jay Hoffman recently sent me an e-mail about his workers’ comp bill, defending the limited causation that is in the legislation and adding this…
The real meat of the bill is related to insurance reform. NCCI, which is funded by the insurance companies and issues advisory rates, has indicated that the 2011 reform should have resulted in an 18.1% decrease in rates. They also indicated that this year would see additional reason for reduction because this will be the first year that the 2011 reforms have been fully implemented. Business has testified they haven’t seen these reductions.
Our bill would follow 26 other states in providing pre-approval of rates to determine if they are appropriate. It would also provide premium relief if you have a certified safety program. In addition, it would require self insured companies to disclose the same info as fully insured so the department can adequately assess the industry.
The bottom line is, assuming NCCI is correct, this should result in decreased costs to employers without reducing benefits to legitimately injured workers. If they are worried about individuals wrongly receiving compensation, they should fund the fraud unit at the department of insurance which we passed in 2005 and investigate fraudulent claims. Apparently IDOT has begun doing this successfully in their department.