Illinois Lawmakers Pass Workers' Comp Reform Bill

Illinois lawmakers on May 27 passed sweeping reforms to the state's workers' compensation system -- reforms that state officials say will help cut costs in the country's 19th most expensive state for workers' compensation premiums.

House Bill 2137, which has drawn praise from industry and labor, is the first comprehensive change to the state's workers' compensation system in almost 20 years, state official say.

The reform bill's provisions include the creation of a medical fee schedule that will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index -- a measure that state officials expect will save Illinois business millions of dollars annually.

The bill also raises the minimum benefit for a worker killed on the job from $400,000 for 20 years of payments to the greater of $500,000 or 25 years of payments. It increases the burial benefits from $4,200 to $8,000 for fatally injured workers.

Other highlights include:

  • The establishment of a workers' compensation fraud statute and investigation unit within the Division of Insurance of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to investigate charges of workers' compensation fraud, including uninsured employers. This provision allows for reporting of fraudulent claims by employees.
  • The creation of a third panel to the Workers' Compensation Commission. State lawmakers say this will expedite resolution of disputed claims and also expand and expedite emergency hearings to resolve cases within 180 days, which will allow injured workers to receive quicker treatment and return to work earlier. This will result in claims being heard and resolved faster, which will decrease litigation costs.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who led negotiations over several months with business and labor leaders and Illinois lawmakers to develop a workers' compensation reform plan, said the bill will boost the state's economy by reducing the costs of doing business.

"Everybody wanted to do what is best for Illinois, and these fundamental changes in the workers' compensation system work for everybody," Blagojevich said. "I look forward to signing them into law."

Illinois Manufacturers' Association President and CEO Gregory Baise said the reform bill provides "fair and balanced benefits to both business and labor."

"Illinois manufacturers and other businesses will be able to realize significant cost savings through nationally accepted managed care practices, and everyone will benefit from the pragmatic anti-fraud measures included in these reforms," Baise said.

The bill also has drawn praise from Illinois AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Michael Carrigan and state Workers' Compensation Commission Chairman Dennis Ruth, the latter of whom called it a "win-win for both employers and employees of the state."

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