* Dan Petrella…
Members of an Illinois House committee on Monday spent a portion of their hearing on a proposed workers compensation overhaul debating whether the hearing should have been held at all.
Following a meeting earlier this month among Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the four top leaders of the General Assembly, the House Labor and Commerce Committee scheduled a hearing on a long-dormant bill from House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs. […]
But Republicans on the committee, including Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said the bill doesn’t reflect progress made last spring in negotiations among a bipartisan group of rank-and-file lawmakers.
“I don’t know what we’re going to accomplish today,” Brady said, noting that Republicans did not ask for the hearing and that Durkin was in a meeting with Rauner and the other legislative leaders at the same time.
* Amanda Vinicky…
Democrats persisted anyway, and used the chance to criticize Rauner’s plan as unfair to workers.
But Chicago Rep. Luis Arroyo evidently didn’t get the memo. He seemed to take a page from Republicans’ playbook instead.
“We shouldn’t have this dog and pony show to stand here and talk to everybody all day on something that ain’t going to matter anyway,” he said. “Let’s not play no games. I drove three and a half hours today in the rain, for three and a half hours, thinking that something was going to happen on this bill. And now you guys are telling me that nothing’s happening …. I didn’t come here to waste my time today.”
* Monique Garcia…
Republicans balked at the outrage, noting they don’t control the House and can’t schedule hearings. That duty falls to Democrats under long-serving Speaker Michael Madigan.
“We did not schedule this meeting,” said Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington.
And so the dysfunction continued as lawmakers return to Springfield for the final scheduled week of the fall session, with the pressure on to cut a budget deal as a temporary stopgap plan expires at the end of the year.
Democrats also complained that Gov. Rauner was tweeting workers’ comp reform stuff during the hearing even though nobody from his office bothered to show up.
* Matt Dietrich is the only one who got into what was actually discussed once the hearing got underway…
Democrats say a 2011 reform bill made workers’ compensation much less expensive for insurers, but those insurers have not passed savings along through lower premiums. But the insurance industry says 332 companies write workers’ comp policies in Illinois, making it the most competitive state in the country. Profits for those companies are 2.68 percent, said Steve Schneider, the American Insurance Association’s vice president for state affairs, Midwest region. “It has not been tremendously profitable,” Schneider told the committee.
Health care providers spoke out against the bill’s proposed 30 percent reduction in several parts of the workers’ compensation medical fee schedule, noting that the 2011 reforms imposed a 30 percent across-the-board cut. “An additional 30 percent would force many medical providers to stop seeing injured workers,” said David Spaccarellie of Deerfield-based Surgical Care Affiliates.
While an enhanced “causation” standard that would require the workplace to be the major cause of an injury is the top goal of Rauner’s workers’ compensation reform plan, Illinois’ current standard is not an outlier. “The causation standard in Indiana is exactly the same as it is in Illinois,” said David Menchetti of the Chicago law firm Cullen Haskins Nicholson Menchetti. Indiana’s insurance rates, rated second lowest in the country in a recent study, are low because employers control medical choices for injured workers and because it pays “poverty level” workers’ compensation benefits, Menchetti said.