Workers’ Comp Reforms May Be Coming in New Legislative Session

Late in 2010, the Illinois Legislature attempted to find cost savings in the state's workers' compensation system, in time to pass a bill reforming the law before the legislative session ended in February 2010. Although special House and Senate committees studied the issues, and a bill (SB 1066) made it out of a committee on a Sunday afternoon, the measure did not pass before the legislative session ended.

The bill, which many House and Senate members felt had been rushed through too quickly, would have been the first change to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act since 2005. The bill was supported by businesses and insurance executives, who feel that Illinois currently pays too much in workers' compensation to injured workers. Opposition to the bill was led by workers and health care providers, who felt the bill did nothing to help injured workers and was only designed to increase corporate profits.

As written, the bill would have limited the time workers could claim the difference between the amount they earn after their injury and the amount they earned before their injury, allowed employers to choose the first physician the injured worker sees, and reduced the fees paid to medical professionals by 15 percent.

The bill also authorized the creation of a workers' compensation advisory board, the members of which would be named by the governor and the four legislative leaders, and would also include directors of state executive agencies.

Although the rushed-through version of the bill did not pass during the last legislative session, new bills with similar language are expected to be introduced in the 97th General Assembly, which began its two-year session in February. Governor Quinn stated in his opening address to the legislators that he supported workers' compensation reform in the new session.

However, business and insurance attempts at reform that concentrate on limiting access to quality medical care, rather than eliminating fraud and abuse, do not further the public interest for a fair and balanced system.