It is interesting that on the anniversary of the implementation of workers’ compensation in the United States, the State of Illinois is attracting national attention for a bill which proposes to abolish the workers’ compensation statute in that state. A bill introduced by Senator Brady proposes to repeal the workers’ compensation statute and revert to a system seen in the early 1900s in which disputes between employees and employers following work place injuries would be litigated in the circuit court. In reality, most observers of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation system recognize this bill as unlikely to pass. Although Senator Brady has stated he is serious about the content of his bill, most see the proposal as an effort at political posturing intended to force real discussion on workers’ compensation reform.
Beginning in late 2010, significant discussion on revisions to the workers’ compensation statute developed in large part due to the out of proportion expense incurred by Illinois employers when compared to employers in other states. Active discussion continues on proposed changes in legislation and a bill introduced by Governor Quinn is rumored to be the subject of a vote soon. The proposed bill from the Governor includes some administrative changes intended to increase accountability of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, and from a substantive standpoint includes proposals such as:
- Caps on carpal tunnel disability payments
- Reduction of temporary total and permanent partial disability rates to pre 2005 levels
- Denial of claims by intoxicated workers
- Capping wage differential awards at age 67, or five years post accident, whichever is later, as opposed to life
- Increased utilization review of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and chiropractic treatment
Other proposals which are part of the reform discussion in Illinois include the implementation of AMA guidelines for purposes of determining disability ratings, a change in the causation standard to require that the work injury be the primary cause, and reduction in medical fee schedule amounts.
While it is unlikely that Illinois will abolish workers’ compensation, it is appearing likely that reform which will include some or all of the above proposals will occur in the near future. The Illinois political process is such that it would be unwise to make any strong predictions as to the ultimate outcome, but chances are very good Illinois will remain in the modern world with continuation of its workers’ compensation statute.