Significant reforms were made to the Illinois workers’ compensation system last year. Many of these reforms focused on cutting costs, often at the expense of injured workers in Illinois. Now lawmakers are continuing to push for changes that may further reduce the benefits injured workers are eligible to receive. One bill was introduced in the Illinois House, and the other in the Illinois Senate. Both have now been assigned to committees for consideration.
The House bill proposes deducting previous partial disability awards from benefits paid for new injuries if the subsequent injury impacts the same area of the body. Essentially, H.B. 6145, sponsored by Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon), would reduce the benefits workers injured repeatedly in the same portion of the body would receive.
The bill specifies that shoulder and arm injuries will be considered the same portion of the body. Hip injuries would also be considered leg injuries for purposes of the bill. Moreover, the bill prohibits whole body awards from exceeding 500 weeks.
The Senate workers’ compensation bill also aims to reduce the benefits available to injured Illinois workers. The bill attempts to exclude idiopathic injuries. It requires that the cause of the injury be “established to a reasonable degree of medical certainty and based on objective relevant medical findings….”
The Senate bill, S.B. 2521, introduced by Senator Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon), also seeks to prevent workers from opting out of employers’ preferred provider programs. These networks, which limit injured employees choice of doctor, were created as part of last years’ reform efforts. Currently, disincentives already discourage injured workers from opting out of these networks, but the new bill would completely prohibit employees from opting-out. In effect, this bill would further restrict injured workers ability to select the medical provider of their choice.
The passage of these bills would result in negative consequences for Illinois residents injured on the job.