On July 16, 2004, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission unanimously voted to increase the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Fee Schedule for various office visits as well as various medical procedures. This is the first sign that the State of Illinois has recognized that the September 1, 2011 fee schedule cuts created a great burden on injured workers due to limitations and access to quality medical care. In the opinion of Strong Law Offices, September 1, 2011 changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act devastated the rights of injured workers by slashing reimbursement rates to health care providers for medical care and treatment related to work-related injuries. Essentially, the bill signed into law by Governor Quinn which went into effect on September 1, 2011, slashed fee schedule reimbursement rates for medical care to injured workers. At first glance, the injured worker may not appear to be impacted. The reality is quite different. The injured worker was impacted by the slashes to the fee schedule because Illinois health care providers began declining to render medical care for workers’ injured on the job. What has transpired since 2011 is that injured workers are forced to bear the costs of their own medical care and treatment for job-related injuries. Injured workers have been using governmental assistance programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, to pass the costs of work-related injuries to injured workers. Likewise, injured workers have been forced to use their private group health insurance programs to obtain access to medical care for a medical treatment which should have been properly billed to workers’ compensation insurance providers.
While workers’ compensation insurance rates to Illinois employers have not decreased, this cost-shifting has saved workers’ compensation insurance carriers millions of dollars all the while decreasing access to quality medical care for the injured worker.
The July 16, 2014 amendment and new rule imposed by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is the first recognition by the State of Illinois and executive offices under the direction ultimately of Governor Quinn have recognized that the September 1, 2011 cuts to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Fee Schedule caused a significant limitation to the injured worker’s access to quality medical care.
We salute the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission as well as the Workers’ Compensation Medical Fee Advisory Board for the recognition of a problem created by the legislation and appropriately correcting the same. We can only hope that these changes will result in better access by the injured worker to medical care for work-related injuries.