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Proposed changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act and Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act in Illinois

| May 10, 2014 | Workers’ Compensation

A new bill proposed to the Illinois House Judiciary Committee in 2013 aims to reform the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act and Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act. This new legislation, known as HB 2229, would draw a distinction between emergency medical technicians and firefighters, giving them different levels of workers’ comp protection. Proponents of the bill argue that it will save the state of Illinois from paying unnecessarily high insurance rates to cover EMTs and paramedics whose everyday work is not as dangerous as that of firefighters. Opponents argue that the bill neglects the very real risks taken by EMTs in the line of duty.

Workers’ comp for Illinois public health and safety workers

According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, more than 40,000 injured workers file claims for state compensation each year. Fourteen percent of those claims are submitted for exposure to harmful substances, disease-causing pathogens or other dangerous work conditions. Many firefighters and medical workers in Illinois make workers’ comp claims based on the hardships of their everyday work. Firefighters most often report acute on-the-job injuries and smoke damage, while many EMTs report exposure to blood-borne pathogens and tuberculosis. The bill would make it more difficult for medical workers to apply for compensation after exposure to tuberculosis and other pathogens.

Possible effects of HB 2229

The effects of HB 2229 could be wide-ranging and long-lasting. If the legislation passes, the following changes may take place:

  • Cities and municipalities could pay up to 80 percent less for workers’ comp insurance covering their EMTs.
  • Additional funds may be available to insure municipal firefighters against occupational disease and injury.
  • Firefighters will continue to benefit from their existing workers’ comp coverage.
  • EMTs and paramedics cross-trained as firefighters will also retain their current coverage.
  • EMTs not cross-trained as firefighters will have greater difficulty claiming compensation for hazardous blood-borne pathogens or tuberculosis encountered on the job.

All of these effects could have an impact on the daily life of medical workers in Illinois.

Controversy surrounding the bill

HB 2229 has caused considerable debate in some Illinois circles. Opponents of the bill argue that it is unfair to medical workers, who put themselves in harm’s way to help patients with contagious diseases. Proponents say that it is an efficient method of decreasing costs while keeping public health workers sufficiently covered. As health care becomes more expensive, the issues surrounding workers’ compensation continue to raise controversy in Illinois. To find out more about HB 2229 and its possible effects on public health professionals, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.