Update on Illinois Workers’ Compensation Reform

At Inman & Fitzgibbons, our Legislative Watch Group continues to monitor pending legislation in Springfield and, when the opportunity arises, we provide input through the Illinois Chamber’s Workers’ Compensation Committee on language contained within proposed legislation and input on what issues should or need not be addressed in the current efforts to continue reform of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the administrative process.  We most recently blogged about Senate Bill 12 (SB 0012), which is included in the “Grand Bargain” of twelve senate bills that must all pass or none shall pass.

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It may surprise many of you that there are actually 12 bills pending in the State House of Representatives and 14 bills (including SB 0012) pending in the State Senate that in one way or another, some to a greater degree than others, impact Illinois workers’ compensation.  All of these bills are currently assigned to committees or subcommittees, which in pending legislation terms means they are being discussed among a group of senators or representatives, with the discussion focused on the merits of the proposed legislation, the language in the bill, and the process for advancing or not advancing the legislation.  Many bills die in committee, but others may take new form and gain some support.  We should also note to you that several of the bills are somewhat duplicative, in that the proposed changes impact the some of the same elements of the Act or the administration of Illinois workers’ compensation cases, benefits and insurance.

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So without being overly cumbersome with all of the gritty details, here are some of the main points proposed in the various bills noted in parenthesis.  If you would like to read more on any one of these bills, you can go to the Illinois General Assembly website and do a search for the bill and click on “full text” or the synopsis to read more about them:

  • Creation of a state-run Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Company, a state WC/OD insurance company, as an alternative to private WC/OD insurance (HB 2622)
  • Immediate creation of a “Workers’ Compensation Transparency Task Force” to collect and review information and data on the effects of the changes in workers’ compensation law to make as transparent as possible all information relating to the medical treatment, legal representation, and benefits paid to injured workers in this State (HB 0412)
  • Reduction in WC insurance ratings for employers implementing a state-certified safety training and return to work program (HB 2645, SB 1349, SB 1504)
  • Restriction on allowable prescription reimbursements to medical providers (HB 2892, SB 1660)
  • Elimination of Kotecki exclusive remedy protection for borrowing employers and prohibition of reimbursement to the loaning employer when the borrowing employer fails to cover the claim (HB 3075, SB 1571)
  • Repeal of the “rebuttable presumption” provision for firefighters, EMT’s and paramedics currently afforded under Section 6(f) of the Act (HB 3526)
  • Return of scheduled PPD values to pre-2006 amendment values along with reduction of minimum TTD and PPD rates, amputation maximums, burial and death benefits to pre-2006 values (HB 3526, HB 3653, HB 3764)
  • Strict PPD evaluation based solely on AMA ratings using most current edition of AMA guide (HB 3526)
  • Supplemental funding of the Injured Workers Benefit Fund from surpluses in the IWCC Operations Fund, the Rate Adjustment Fund, the Settlement Fund and/or the Second Injury Fund (HB 3566, SB 1315)
  • Entitle and require the IWCC Compliance Division to perform on-site job inspections to determine Section 4 compliance (SB 1237)
  • Legislatively define “accident arising out of and in the scope of” employment, particularly addressing idiopathic, personal and neutral risks and traveling employee definitions (HB 0411, SB 0862, SB 1309, SB 1358)
  • Reverse the holding in Will County Forest Preserve District confirming that a shoulder is part of the arm and that a hip is part of the leg for determining PPD values (SB 0862, SB 1309, SB 1358)
  • Create a stricter “major contributing cause” standard (HB 0411, SB 1358)
  • Set a maximum cumulative PPD compensation for the life of an employee at 500 weeks (SB 1358)
  • Reverse the rulings in Interstate Scaffolding and Matuszek by stating that employees on accommodated restrictions that are terminated for cause shall not be entitled to receive TTD (SB 1358)
  • Establish a method for calculating workers’ compensation and liability insurance premiums for the construction industry based upon work hours rather than payroll (SB 1454)
  • Statutorily confirm that a 14-delay in payment of benefits as rebuttable presumption of unreasonableness in determining whether penalties are warranted (SB 0862)
  • Set statutory cap on employees’ attorneys’ fees at 15%, rather than the current 20%, of 364 weeks of PTD benefits (SB 1863)
  • Clarifies some of the appeal deadlines for recalled decisions and extends the time for correcting clerical errors in IWCC Decisions (SB 0640)

It sounds like a lot, and it is.  But keep in mind that many of these are still in committee and drafting/re-drafting phase, and some have little hope of seeing the floor of either house.  (It took the Cubs 108 years to win a World Series – it will likely be at least that long to get a “major contributing cause” standard in Illinois.)  We will continue monitoring the legislation and provide updates as any of these advance.  Please continue to follow our blog or call to communicate with our office regarding any concerns you have with these pending bills.

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