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Workers’ Compensation Reform Update for Illinois Workers

| Apr 18, 2014 | Motor Vehicle Accident, Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation

Just over two years ago, Governor Pat Quinn signed into effect the most extensive overhaul of workers’ compensation Illinois legislation in decades. According to the governor, the new rules would significantly reduce fees that doctors and hospitals charge for treating workers injured on the job or suffering job-related illnesses—leading to lower insurance premiums for employers.

Since the enactment of reforms, a study released by the workers’ compensation Research Institute reveals that claims for workers’ compensation Illinois fell 4.6 percent in 2012 and medical fees dropped 24 percent. Other reports also show that workers’ compensation costs are coming down, but at the expense of injured Illinois workers.

Workers’ Compensation Data Firm Recommends Rate Cut

The National Council on Compensation Insurance, (NCCI) endorses a reduction in Workers’ Compensation Illinois insurance premiums. According to NCCI data, costs for the system have decreased 14 percent. With the 4.5 percent decrease scheduled for 2014, premiums will have fallen 13.3 percent.

The governor’s office states that Illinois employers will save $315 million if the voluntary guidelines are implemented throughout the state.

Compromised Medical Care for Injured Workers

Employers can choose a Preferred Provider Program (PPN) for the care and treatment of work injuries. The PPN provides workers the first choice in which they may select up to two doctors. Network doctors can make referrals to specialists or other providers as necessary. Employees who opt out of the network can select only one physician. The new rules limit them to one referral if there is a need for further treatment.

Opponents of workers’ compensation Illinois reform argue that forcing workers to give up the doctor of their choice gives companies the power to keep costs low at the expense of injured workers. Businesses will choose doctors who will provide nominal medical treatment and prematurely push employees back to work.

The Illinois State Medical Society claims that payments for workers’ compensation Illinois cases have fallen below the pay rate for Medicare. Consequently, more physicians, specialists and other health care professionals will abandon the workers’ compensation Illinois system.

With a physician shortage already aggravated by the growing numbers of baby boomers requiring medical care, injured workers must wait longer to see a doctor.

Unfair Compensation for Permanent Impairment

Another issue with workers’ compensation Illinois reforms concerns the misapplication of the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Physicians use these guidelines to make declarations of permanent partial disabilities. As a result, employees may not receive the benefits they are entitled to under workers’ compensation Illinois regulations.

Evidence shows that workers’ compensation Illinois reforms have had a negative impact on the rights of injured employees to receive prompt medical care and fair compensation for damages. Unfortunately, despite decreasing insurance premiums and significant savings to employers, reform advocates continue to organize efforts to unfairly limit the benefits for workers injured on the job.