If you live in Illinois, you are more than likely already aware of Governor Rauner’s continued to refusal to submit a state budget unless he gets his way on workers’ compensation “reform”, despite the fact that reforms were already enacted in 2011, at the expense of injured workers. But as new developments occur rapidly, it can be easy to lose track of the details.
With the Governor spending millions to advertise his point of view and public patience with him wearing thin, state Democrats have devised some proposed solutions, which I’d like to go over in this week’s post.
The Governor has included significant changes to the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act as one of his conditions for his approval of a state budget. His stubbornness in this matter is, in large part, the reason we have all been scraping by without a budget since 2015.
The Act outlines when and how much an employee injured at work is entitled to be compensated by their employer. In 2011, it was overhauled with the goal of cutting costs for businesses, slashing worker benefits in the process. Since then, state businesses have not seen much of the savings they were promised out of the 2011 changes, and Governor Rauner now wants to further cut worker benefits, evidently hoping that doing more of the same will somehow fix the problem this time.
The real problem, however, is one that will not be solved by depriving Illinois workers of benefits and representation. The only expense an employer must pay for worker’s compensation is their insurance premiums and consequently, insurance companies have taken advantage of the 2011 overhaul, securing soaring profits for themselves and leaving precious little for businesses and employees alike.
Illinois Democrats have put forth two proposed solutions to this system of profiteering:
Two bills known as HB 2525 and HB 2622 are currently in limbo within the state government. They offer two different ways of stopping insurance companies from sapping money off employers and causing them to further whittle down their workers’ benefits.
One Possible Solution
HB 2525 was pushed forward by State Representative Jay Hoffman and State Senator Kwame Raoul. It makes several changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act. Notably, it will (if enacted) require insurance companies to submit their workers’ comp rates to the Department of Insurance for approval, allowing them to be regulated.
By regulating insurance rates, we can prevent companies from charging absurdly high bills to employers and from further taking advantage of the system. As you can imagine, insurance companies are not happy about this, but the bill does present a neat solution to their habit of continuously creating unnecessarily high expenses for the rest of us.
HB 2622 is another proposed bill, this one sponsored by State Representative Laura Fine and State Senator Daniel Biss. If enacted, it will create the Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Company. This is intended to be a government-funded non-profit that will provide workers’ comp insurance to businesses at a competitive rate. This would help businesses by giving employers an option outside of the exorbitant premiums of private insurance companies, allowing them to save money without stripping employees of access to compensation.
Both this bill and HB 2525 have been passed by the House and the Senate, but thus far the Governor has refused to sign.
It just doesn’t make sense to me that we made significant cuts to worker benefits in the name of lowering employer costs in 2011, saw that it was ineffective in that goal, and yet we are still, in 2017, trying to force results with the same useless tactic, all the while throwing injured workers under the bus. It is astounding to me that Bruce Rauner can claim to fight for the average Illinoisan in one breath and systematically slice away at millions of Illinoisans’ coverage for work-related injuries in the next.
There is a misconception floating around that the majority of workers’ comp cases are scams, cooked up by self-entitled people hoping to get rich off a minor cut or bruise. Well, as someone who spends my days sifting through and learning every detail of dozens of workers’ comp cases each year, let me assure you: that is simply not reality. Any workers’ comp case is a long and rigorous process for all involved and legal professionals are, on the whole, very intelligent people. Nobody goes around handing out checks to those without a legitimate case.
By cutting workers’ comp benefits, we are not only ignoring the root cause of the problem–greedy insurance corporations creating unduly high expenses for employers–we are punishing the wrong group, taking rights away from people who have already been afflicted.
HB 2525 and BH 2622 offer logical solutions to the problems in our workers’ compensation system that will effectively lower costs for businesses and prevent insurance companies from further taking advantage of injured Illinoisans. I encourage you reading this to support those bills, and to stay up to date on the workers’ comp debate. I sincerely hope you never suffer a work related injury, but if you do, I want you to get the compensation you deserve.
You can learn more about workers’ comp cases on my website here. If you have a case of you’re own, call me at (312) 258-8188 for a free consultation.