(Springfield, IL) – May 28, 2011. The Illinois Senate yesterday approved a comprehensive reform of the Illinois workers compensation system to eliminate abuse and save Illinois businesses $500 million annually.
“This reform package is the single most important thing we can do to improve our business climate and ensure our economic recovery continues,” said Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).
The legislation, which the Senate approved 46-8, reforms medical fees schedule, standards used for determining disability awards, choice of physicians, the review process for determining the necessity and frequency of medical services, penalties for fraud and changes to the state’s workers’ compensation system.
The Senate’s action drew praise from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“I am pleased the Illinois Senate has taken action to reform our state’s workers’ compensation system …,” said Emanuel. “Reforming the workers’ compensation system will make Illinois a more competitive place to do business, create jobs and strengthen our economy.”
The Senate’s GOP leader gave luke-warm endorsement of the bill.
“This is not a perfect bill, but I think we’ve achieved our main objective of lowering costs for job creators, while protecting the rights of injured workers,” Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said. “While this measure alone will not eliminate all abuses of this system, this is good step towards addressing a system that has driven employers and business out of our state.”
Key provisions in the reform legislation:
- Reduces the medical fee schedule 30% across-the-board beginning September 1.
- Allows employers to set up medical provider networks for the treatment of workplace injuries. Injured employees still able to choose a physician outside the network.
- Utilizes American Medical Association guidelines will be among the factors to determine disability.
- Caps wage differential payments, ending the award at age 67 or 5 years after the award is received, whichever is later. The wage differential award is a benefit based on an injured employees’ pay before and after injury. Under existing law, it is a lifetime benefit.
- Caps awards for carpal tunnel syndrome due to repetitive or cumulative trauma.
- Increases use of utilization review regarding the necessity of medical treatments.
- Terminates all workers’ compensation arbitrators. First set of new arbitrators appointed by the governor with Senate confirmation. Eliminates automatic re-appointment.
- Requires an intoxicated employee injured in the workplace must prove that the alcohol or drugs did not cause the accident.
- Allows anonymous reporting of fraud. Under current law, all reports must be verified.
- Creates a new system of fraud penalties with increased fines and possible prison time as amount of fraud increases.
The legislation now moves to the Illinois for its consideration and Emanuel wants the lower chamber to approve the measure before lawmakers adjourn on May 31.
“… I urge the House to pass before the end of the session,” said Emanuel. “It is the right thing for workers, businesses and Chicago taxpayers.”