So What’s Happening with the WC Reform?

As we’ve reported in past blog posts, amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act were passed into law this summer, with many of the provisions taking effect on or before September 1, 2011, including changes with and at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. In addition to the termination of all existing IWCC Arbitrators on July 1, 2011, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission WC Advisory Board was also terminated and a new Board appointed. The IL WC Advisory Board is now responsible for review applications of those interested in serving as IWCC Arbitrator, including those arbitrators who were terminated on July 1, 2011 interested in returning to the position.

The WC Advisory Board has reviewed several applications, and we believe they have a “short list” of those in the running to serve as IWCC Arbitrators. However, we have not been privy to any insider information as to which arbitrators may be returning, and which ones may be leaving. Stay tuned for updates as we monitor this very closely.

A new WC Medical Fee Advisory Board has also been appointed by the Governor consisting of: Jason Keller (Illinois AFL-CIO), Dianne McGuire, Barb Molloy (Molloy Consulting), Kim Moreland (Rising Medical Solutions), John Smolk (United Airlines), Dr. Avi Bernstein, Dr. William McAndrew and Dr. Michael Vender. The WC Medical Fee Advisory Board advises the IWCC on the establishment of fees for medical services and the accessibility of medical treatment, and consists of three employee representatives, three employer representatives and three medical professionals. (There currently remains one vacancy for an employee representative with the current appointments.)

Speaking of the Fee Schedule, with the 2011 amendments, the Medical Fee Schedule was cut by 30% across the board on 2011 for any and all medical services rendered. Recently, the IWCC announced that with the coming new year there will be a 3.77% increase in fees for services incurred after January 1, 2012. (When the Medical Fee Schedule was created with the 2005 amendments, it allowed for annual increases to account for inflation.)

In the meantime, we have learned that independent arbitrators have been hired to serve on a contract basis to hear the claims of IWCC employees, including arbitrators with pending claims. These independent arbitrators are H. Case Ellis, Daniel Leahy, Alan Rosen, and Edward J. Schoenbaum.

Finally, the 2011 amendments require that each venue have a minimum of three arbitrators assigned to it. This is a logistical issue given the size of some of the existing downstate venues, which barely have enough of a case load to occupy one arbitrator. To meet the requirements of the 2011 amendments and overcome this issue, there is currently discussion of “super venues” which will consist of six “super venues” that will consist of three locations at which cases will be heard. This is still in the preliminary planning stage, but it looks as though cases will return to a 90-day trial call cycle at the IWCC and be assigned to one arbitrator. The downstate cases will then come up for hearing on that arbitrator’s trial call but can be heard under 19(b) at any of the three locations within the “super venue,” so long as it is before the arbitrator to whom the case is assigned. Confused? Many are confused, which is one reason this is still in the preliminary phase. If you want to get some idea as to what these “super venues” will look like, here you go:

Region : Hearing sites

1 : Collinsville, Herrin, Mt. Vernon

2 : Quincy, Springfield, Urbana

3 : Bloomington, Kewanee, Peoria

4 : Geneva, Joliet, Ottawa

5 : Rockford, Waukegan, Woodstock

6 : Wheaton (Three Chicago arbitrators will be assigned to appear in Wheaton.)

Changes are happening at the IWCC, and we’ll continue to monitor this and keep you updated. Please contact our office if you have any specific questions or would like to offer some feedback on the changes. We would enjoy hearing from you!

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