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Illinois Worker’s Compensation Reform for 2011?

By Christopher S. Crawford

The Illinois House and Senate have formed special committees to discuss workers’ compensation reforms. The Senate Committee has already held two meetings in Chicago on November 29 and December 8.  The House Committee plans to hold meetings in Normal on December 15 and Mt. Vernon on December 16. 

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce presented a report noting that Illinois ranks third in terms of highest premium costs out of fifty one other jurisdictions.  Neighboring states such as Wisconsin, Missouri and Iowa rank much lower. Indiana ranks fifty out of fifty-one.  The Chamber argues that the status quo is unacceptable if Illinois wants to attract and retain good paying jobs.

The Chamber is asking the House and Senate to consider reforms in 2011. Potential reforms include implementing employer directed medical care, requiring the workplace injury to be the primary cause of a condition versus a contributing factor and allowing physicians to establish permanency ratings in accordance with AMA guidelines.             

The Chamber is asking that wage differential awards be re-opened, should the economic circumstances of the petitioner change. They are asking that the Commission consider retirement age as a ceiling versus life expectancy when calculating wage differential and permanent total awards.   The Chamber is requesting that credits be allowed for person as a whole award and the loss of the person be capped at 100%.

The Chamber also believes that more must be done to insure that Arbitrators and Commissioners are impartial. They are requesting that Arbitrators and Commissioners have seven to ten years experience in the workers’ compensation arena.  Further, they are calling for merit review by the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Board as it relates to the appointment of all future Arbitrators. There is no legislation pending at this time.  We will continue to keep our clients advised of any important developments.

Originally published in the Winter 2010 edition of Quinn Quarterly.