Illinois Gets Much Needed WC Reform
Under threat of eliminating workers’ compensation entirely, the Illinois House voted 62-43 on 5/31/11 to approve a major overhaul of the Illinois WC system. The same bill had been rejected 48 hours earlier, following which Rep. John Bradley, the bills sponsor, warned that he would not call another vote and instead push to eliminate the system altogether. That threat and an intense lobbying effort produced a few more votes to revive the bill just hours before the legislative session was scheduled to end yesterday. Republicans feel the bill is not real reform and doctors are hit the hardest with the lower fees. As you may recall, Illinois did not even have a WC fee schedule until 2006 and today still remains one of the highest in the nation, so the republicans need to keep it in perspective.
In addition to the 30% cut in medical fees, the bill proposes to allow employers to organize medical networks, outline permissible treatment, limit carpal tunnel to 28.5 weeks, make it more difficult for intoxicated workers to win claims, and seek new arbitrators under three-year terms instead of six-year and who will be barred from accepting gifts. While scrapping the entire system and starting over was an attractive dream, these measures should result in a remarkable improvement in controlling workers’ compensation costs in Illinois. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn who is on record as stating that he will absolutely sign it.