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Two views on the new workers’ comp rate recommendation

Thursday, Jul 27, 2017

* During his press conference yesterday, Senate President John Cullerton mentioned the new workers’ comp ratings advisory. Cullerton crowed about the recommended 10.9 percent drop. We have two views today, starting with Sean Stott at the Laborers’ Union…

This week, the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) released the latest figures on what Illinois employers should expect to pay for workers’ compensation insurance next year – a 10.9% decrease in their premium rates compared to this year. This is the fifth consecutive recommendation for lower rates for employers following the 2011 workers’ compensation benefit cuts enacted by the Illinois General Assembly, and follows the third largest drop in the nation in 2017. In total, Illinois employers should have seen a 36.5% reduction in their workers’ compensation rates since the 2011 benefit cuts, according to the NCCI.

But in Illinois, insurance companies aren’t required to follow those recommendations, and the industry has increased its own profit margin rather than pass savings on to Illinois employers.

“Common sense will tell you that if insurance companies are paying out less to injured workers and paying less to health care providers, costs should also go down for Illinois employers,” said Sean Stott, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Midwest Region of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. “But that’s not happening. In fact, insurance profits have increased more than 400% since the 2011 benefit cuts.”

“The Legislature passed bills that would hold insurance companies accountable for what they charge Illinois employers and create a more competitive market,” said Stott. “If Governor Rauner truly wants to save Illinois employers money, he would sign those bills into law.”

This year’s recommendation is the fifth time since 2011 in which the NCCI has recommended lower rates for workers’ compensation insurance, including the second consecutive double-digit percentage reduction. The NCCI did not make a recommendation in 2016.

In 2011, the General Assembly made the following changes to the workers’ compensation system in Illinois:

    · Cut medical fee payments by 30%;
    · Expanded the use of American Medical Association (AMA) Guidelines for assessing permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits (despite the AMA’s insistence that this is an inappropriate use of their Guidelines);
    · Restricted PPD wage differential benefits to the later of age 67 or 5 years after injury;
    · Cut PPD for most carpal tunnel cases by 20% and reduced the basis upon which benefits are calculated by 7.5%; and
    · Allowed employers to limit injured workers’ choice of medical providers.

* From Mark Denzler at the IMA…

Illinois continues to have the 8th most expensive cost of workers’ compensation in the United States and it remains a major impediment for manufacturing companies operating in this state. Surgeons continue to charge 250 to 350 percent more for performing the exact same surgery on a patient covered by workers’ compensation than they receive under private insurance. In real numbers, an arm injury in Illinois pays out an average of $439,858 compared to the national average of $169,878 – these out-of-whack numbers are the reasons why wealthy trial attorneys, union bosses and doctors oppose even modest changes to the current system. The fact is that the average cost of a workers’ compensation claim in Illinois is among the highest in the nation.

While we are pleased that NCCI’s latest advisory recommends an advisory rate level decrease, and our members hope to see some reduction in their premium cost from insurers, the cause behind NCCI’s advisory underscores the real problem facing the state’s economy.

NCCI made a key observation about a drop in the lost-time claim frequency of 4.6 percent in the last year. However, NCCI research points to three main reasons for reductions in lost-time claim frequency including

    * an industry shift away from construction and manufacturing jobs,
    * a decrease in average weekly hours for employees, and
    * a reduction in earned premium resulting from an unstable economic climate.

Quite simply, Illinois’ poor economic climate coupled with the loss of good, middle-class manufacturing jobs and reduced hours for workers is causing the drop in lost-time claim frequency.

At the end of the day, Illinois is not competitive when it comes to the cost of workers’ compensation and we will continue seeing companies leaving the state and families suffer because Illinois lawmakers choose to protect the interests of wealth trial lawyers, union bosses, and the medical community over job creators and hard working Illinoisans who struggle to find good jobs.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 12:26 pm:

    ===In real numbers, an arm injury in Illinois pays out an average of $439,858 compared to the national average of $169,878===

    It’s hard to work with only one functioning arm. I mean, how do you even begin to tie a tie? Can’t go to the office looking like it’s casual Friday when it’s only Tuesday.

    How much does Denzler think his arm is worth?

  2. - Chicago 20 - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 12:49 pm:

    - “In real numbers, an arm injury in Illinois pays out an average of $439,858 compared to the national average of $169,878 – these out-of-whack numbers are the reasons why wealthy trial attorneys, union bosses and doctors oppose even modest changes”

    How do wealthy trial attorneys and union bosses benefit from from what a doctor charges to repair an arm injury?
    Where are the specifics of this arm injury story and what are the details of the doctor’s charges?
    Why doesn’t Denzler address the 36.5% drop in claims and the 400% increase of insurance company profits?

  3. - don the legend - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 12:50 pm:

    On an issue like workers’ compensation, when any party (in this case Mark Denzler) starts a sentence with ‘Quite simply…’ I tune them out.

  4. - RNUG - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 12:53 pm:

    Since the free market does not seem to be working, in this case, it appears there needs to be more regulation of the insurance companies, not less, by the State. Specify a maximum profit rate and audit the companies.

  5. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 12:58 pm:

    Pretty simple. Trial lawyers get 20 percent of the award/cost.

  6. - Ghost - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 1:05 pm:

    just mandate that work comp claims can not be billed out higher then the health insurance policy rate held by the employee. Since everyone is required to have insurance….

  7. - walker - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 1:08 pm:

    Pure free market processes never work to benefit all participants in the insurance industry. Insurance itself is designed to counter the processes of the theoretical free market, and to minimize competition. That’s why all successful insurance programs are heavily regulated, including how much margins insurance companies can take.

  8. - illinois manufacturer - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 1:16 pm:

    Yep need to lean on the insurance companies. Besides Illinois got tge best deal on Foxcon. Its in easy commuting distance. Hopefully Wisconsin will build its next big factory in Beloit.

  9. - Da big bad wolf - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 1:16 pm:

    ==Why doesn’t Denzler address the …400% increase in insurance company profits?==

    Because you know, wealthy trial lawyers, union bosses, doctors all against those saintly job creators.

    Gag me.

  10. - Ahoy! - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 2:10 pm:

    –In fact, insurance profits have increased more than 400% since the 2011 benefit cuts.”–

    I might have missed this, but is there a source for this information? I’m just wondering how we know the profitability of workers compensation insurance of the hundreds of companies out there.

    Also, the most most important part of this argument is that we are the 8th highest cost. This is the information businesses use to compare us with other states to make location decisions. None of those businesses think we have a market failure in the insurance industry (because that claim is ludicrous).

    Also, to Denzler’s point about the arm injury numbers, paying out for litigate work injuries is not the problem. The problem is the high medical & legal costs as well as the causation issue. How about this, cap the money on both the doctors and the lawyers to make both the democrats and republicans mad and then come to come kind of compromise on addressing the causation issue because it’s a plain joke in this state.

  11. - Annonin' - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 2:17 pm:

    Mr/Ms Ahoy
    Check the IL Dept of Insurance

  12. - The Real Just Me - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 2:29 pm:

    The number 8 ranking that Denzler refers to does not take into account the 2017 reduction (12.9%) or the 2018 reduction (10.9%), 23.8% reduction total. The next ranking is due out in Fall 2018, when IL will rank right in the middle based on the last 2 years’ historically high reductions. Maybe we should wait until then before we start telling the one-armed worker that his amputated arm was worth too much.

  13. - Sean Stott - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 2:31 pm:

    There is always a bogeyman under the bed to keep the employer/insurer cabal on the same page, rhetorically. The current version is the $400k arm injury & the rates of reimbursement for certain surgical procedures. Let’s check under the bed so we can rest easy.

    The cost cited for an “arm injury” is not the average cost for treating tendonitis or a sprain. Nor is it the cost for a worker who is paid a median wage in Illinois. The cost cited for an “arm injury” is for an amputation. Yup, someone who goes to work with two arms and leaves with only one. And that is also not the benefit for an amputation below the elbow or above the elbow. It’s the benefit for losing your arm at the shoulder.

    On top of that, that worker who lost his or her arm at the shoulder would have to make far more than the statewide average weekly wage in order to get that “benefit.”

    As for medical fees, let’s look at the cost of the average medical claim in Illinois. The WCRI - which is an entity comprised exclusively of business and insurer members - said that the cost of Illinois’ average medical claim was 23% lower than the average claim in Indiana and 17.6% lower than in Wisconsin.

    The business lobby consistently points to the extreme outlier in an attempt to portray it as the norm to further their agenda of cutting benefits for the vast majority injured workers and to eliminate coverage for as many as possible.

  14. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 2:43 pm:


    I sure hope you’re on contract for the docs and hospitals since you’re carrying their water!!!

    The #8 ranking is apples to apples among states. The true cost of WC per $100 of payroll. Illinois businesses paym18 percent more that the US average. No hyberpole. Facts.

    Lots of stuff go into rates. Medical costs. Indemnity payemebts. Length of TTD benefits. Illinois is at the top, or near the top, in every category.

    The fact is that IL went from 23rd to 3rd when Blago signed the law increasing benefits by 7.5 percent and imposing them2nd highest fee schedule in the US at the time. With the 30 percent not cut in 2011, Illinois’ fee schedule dropped to 3rd highest.

    Out of balance but hope you can start representing laborers out of state as the jobs keep leaving here.

  15. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 2:49 pm:

    ===The cost cited for an “arm injury” is for an amputation. Yup, someone who goes to work with two arms and leaves with only one. And that is also not the benefit for an amputation below the elbow or above the elbow. It’s the benefit for losing your arm at the shoulder.===

    Thanks for clarifying that. Everybody should read that carefully and let it sink in. Then ask yourself, how much is your arm worth?

  16. - The Real Just Me - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 3:11 pm:

    Anonymous at 2:43, the rating organization scored that 7.5% increase you refer to as a 1% change in the total cost of the system. It therefore could not have been the cause of the move in the ranking from 23 to 8. The medical fee schedule limited what doctors could be reimbursed for the first time in the history of the law; it was a limit and a reduction not an increase. It therefore could not have been the cause of the move from 23 to 8. In fact, the index rate in 2016 ($2.23 per $100 payroll) is lower than it was in 2004 ($2.65)before these changes supposedly exploded costs and worsened our relative ranking. What really happened was that IL WC costs were actually going down, but other states were just racing to the bottom much faster.

  17. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 3:21 pm:

    –At the end of the day, Illinois is not competitive when it comes to the cost of workers’ compensation and we will continue seeing companies leaving the state and families suffer because Illinois lawmakers choose to protect the interests of wealth trial lawyers, union bosses, and the medical community over job creators and hard working Illinoisans who struggle to find good jobs.–

    That’s been the IMA company line for at least 30 years or so.

    I get the sturm und drang — workers comp is one among the hundreds of issues that go into manufacturing site selection that they can have some influence on.

    The great majority, they cannot.

    For what it’s worth, Illinois still has nearly twice as many manufacturers than either Wisconsin or Indiana.

    It’s just politicians and lobbyists who play the game that state government policies are a major factor on global manufacturing.

    The global trend simply is fewer manufacturing jobs. That will continue, driven by technology advances.

    If you use the google, an educated labor force is the #1 must-have new manufacturing plants. Fewer/smarter workers, more/smarter machines.

    Fortunately, the Illinois economy is less dependent on manufacturing as a percentage of GDP than other Midwestern states.

  18. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 3:27 pm:

    A consequence of higher worker’s compensation costs is the incentive this provides companies to maintain a safe workplace. If you have few serious claims, your insurance rates should be lower.

    On the other hand, if we match the national average and only pay a third of the current cost of a severed arm, it might make financial sense to cut a few corners here and there on training and safety.

  19. - Blue dog dem - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 3:28 pm:

    Word. Work comp ranks very high in any well thought out relocation plans. Regrettably, it seems the biggest issue is how much money a relocating company can milk from the government pig trough. I have made this statement before, i know noone who supports govt giveaways. Am i on an island, or do others feel like me?

  20. - Da big bad wolf - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 3:29 pm:

    ==when any party starts a sentance with “Quite simply”…I tune them out. ==
    And when any party starts a sentance like Denzler with “At the end of the day” I hope it ends with “I have a cold beer” or something like that.

  21. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 3:31 pm:

    –A consequence of higher worker’s compensation costs is the incentive this provides companies to maintain a safe workplace.–

    Those Foxconn cats have that all worked out.

    –Harsh work conditions at a variety of Foxconn locations in China led to a spate of Foxconn employee suicides in 2010. Foxconn chillingly responded to those suicide attempts by installing safety nets to catch employees attempting to jump to their deaths from company buildings. –

  22. - Anon - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 3:37 pm:

    Ward is right. Check out Indiana’s stats; along with those much lower benefits they have a much higher injury per employee injury ratio.

  23. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 3:40 pm:

    – i know noone who supports govt giveaways.–

    Every living American politician?

    I think the idea of politicians “creating jobs” with taxpayer money began with the severe economic upheaval that started with the first oil shock in 1974 and continued through the early 80s.

    Before then, giveaways were rare. Now, they’re expected.

  24. - blue dog dem - Thursday, Jul 27, 17 @ 9:25 pm:

    Word. I agree. Its pitiful how this has evolved. Who would have ever thought that a Republican or Democrat would give WalMart or HomeDepot a TiF/sales tax abatement, only to see it dry up mom/pop businesses. Its just unamerican.

  25. - The Real Just Me - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 7:39 am:

    Very few workers in IL would ever get $400,000 for an amputated arm. A worker making $15 per hour gets about $136,000 for her amputated arm. The average worker in IL makes about $1100 per week; she gets about $164,000 for her amputated arm. A worker who makes about $1300 per week gets about $196,000 for her amputated arm. Only a worker who makes over $2100 per week or about $112,000 per year ever gets $400,000 for an amputated arm. So no, Mr. Denzler, $400,000 is not the “average” for an amputated arm; it is the most.I’m not saying that is too much, but those are the real numbers.

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