The election cycle is again producing false and misleading characterizations of the state of worker’s compensation in Illinois, mostly from the same Republican mouthpieces who have been crying “wolf” in the past. The reason employers in this state are hit with price increases on their work comp premiums is because of the greed of the insurers in our state and not because of anything wrong with the work comp system itself. The legislature should be working to protect access to fair and honest workers’ compensation for employees in the state of Illinois, in addition to helping control premium costs for employers.
- Workers’ rights should be at the forefront. Injured workers should not be subjected to reduced benefits.
- Those injured on the job should be allowed to choose their own doctor and have access to quality healthcare.
- Injured workers should also be adequately compensated in the event of a workplace injury.
Workers’ Comp Overhaul in 2011
Worker safety and well-being should drive any discussion about reforms to the Illinois workers’ compensation system. In 2011, when Illinois enacted reforms to the workers’ comp system, the goal of this overhaul was to protect workers’ rights while reducing costs for employers, and many employers supported passage of that law. However, workers’ rights were compromised and employers have yet to see any real relief from the high cost of workers’ comp insurance.
The insurance industry, whose premiums dictate the price of our workers’ comp system, enjoyed a pass when it came to this bipartisan workers’ comp reform law. The law was intended to reduce insurance rates for employers, but businesses say they have yet to realize any real savings from the new system. Meanwhile, insurers are profiting more than ever from the new law, and any consideration of the exorbitant premiums their industry slaps on Illinois employers is conspicuously absent from the debate.
Insurance Industry’s Role
The business community complains of the high cost of the premiums they pay for workers’ comp insurance. The premiums are high and continue to get higher even though pending claims have dropped in the last decade, from approximately 80,000 to around 50,000, in a state of nearly 13 million people. Insurers continue to rake in excessive profits, despite the new law and promises of rate reductions for employers.
We who represent injured workers and their families believe a closer look at the insurance industry and its lack of regulation is needed, and we have urged legislators to focus on insurance reform. In any potential future rewrite of the law, Illinois lawmakers should look closely at the insurance industry’s lack of regulation. Insurance reform, not a further diminishment of injured workers’ rights, is the key to reducing employers’ workers’ comp costs.
Any type of fraud – whether by employers or employees – in the worker's compensation system must be eliminated to reduce costs. Our position has always been in favor of empowering the appropriate authorities, allowing them to crack down on abusers. Any abuse of the system should not be tolerated.
Efforts to produce savings for employers should not simply shift the cost associated with workers’ comp to private insurance or Medicaid. This would simply place more financial burden on private insurance – raising premiums for the policyholders – and on the Medicaid system, which is already millions of dollars behind on payments.
Despite claims to the contrary, a simple review of existing law makes clear that a worker’s injury must occur in the course of employment. Injuries that don’t occur on the job are not covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act and never have been.