One of the many issues Governor Rauner and the state Legislature still have not found common ground on is the future of Workers’ Compensation Reform, but a report recently released by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission may clarify certain contentious points in this already sluggish, antagonistic debate.
As Governor Rauner maintains his position that the definition of employees able to receive workers’ compensation should be narrowed and that doctors should receive less payment when taking on workers’ compensation cases, new figures released by the WCC may actually bolster a counter-argument proposed by House Democrats by revealing that overall insurer and medical payments are actually decreasing.
Published in the report, the WCC highlights the following information:
- Illinois insurers reported a 19% drop in benefit payments (loss costs) between 2011-2015.
- Illinois experienced the largest decrease in the average medical payment per claim among WCRI study states and moved from the highest state to near the median. For all cases, Illinois’ average medical payment per case fell 16% from 2010-2012. Importantly, there was little change in utilization, meaning providers did not provide more services to make up for the lost income.
- The closely-watched Oregon study found that Illinois had the largest decrease in premiums among all the states, dropping from the 4th highest to the 7th highest between 2012-2014. And the effects of some of the 2011 legislative changes have yet to register.
Whether or not these figures will be enough to convince Governor Rauner that workers’ compensation reforms passed in 2011 are producing positive outcomes, has yet to be seen because IL still remains in the top 10 states with the most expensive premiums. Making the affair more complicated is the unfortunate connection workers’ compensation now has to another important financial issue – the minimum wage.
Governor Rauner has agreed to a minimum wage increase only if his appeals about workers’ compensation are met, and this decision, perhaps inadvertently, places focus on another fact cited in the WCC’s report: Those who file workers’ compensation claims, are themselves, often paid less than the general public.
Comparing the wages of injured workers the Statewide Average Weekly Wage, the WCC report states, “The wages of injured workers who filed in FY14 were 18% lower than the SAWW.” Pausing to consider the idea that those injured at work may soon have to fight harder to receive compensation while also being paid less than the state average, shows just how serious this political debate actually is.
In reading these figures, one may conclude that expenditures associated with workers’ compensation are, in-fact, decreasing, but as some bottom lines may be improving, the pocketbooks of others still remain thin.