Late yesterday afternoon, an organization which is near and dear to my heart, the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Association, sent an email to all of its members, alerting us to contact our State Representatives and to tell them that we oppose further changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act as proposed by our current Governor, Bruce Rauner. The amendments to the Act may be considered today, May 21, 2015. The amendments proposed by Governor include among them the following four items:
- Heightening the “causation standard.” This amendment is designed to reduce and eliminate benefits which are currently available to injured workers in the state of Illinois. It would create a tremendous amount of litigation in order to define “the major contributing cause” of the injured worker’s aggravating factor.
- Allowing the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment to be the sole determining factor of permanent partial disability. This is specifically designed to lower benefits available for permanent disability by using what’s called a “consensus document,” which is drafted by insurance doctors for insurance interests.
- Defining and restricting “traveling employee” and “arising out of and in the course of employment.” Currently, all traveling employees are covered from door to door; in other words, for any injury they incur from the time they start work until the time they arrive back to the place where they started. Changing the scope of the term “traveling employee” would expose workers to the dangers of travels. Protection from such dangers has always been a part of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. If this passes, some or even many of the injuries workers receive will no longer be covered by the law.
- Finally, the Governor wants another 30% reduction in the medical fee schedule, even though Illinois just had a 30% reduction in 2011. This would cut off access to premium healthcare for most injured workers, and drive many doctors to the point where they would refuse to treat injured workers.
This in effect would be an attempt to drive the benefits scheme in Illinois to the bottom of the barrel; in other words, to force Illinois to become more like Indiana, in the hopes of bringing more business to the state of Illinois. In reality, this would create a disposable workforce in Illinois, which would be thrown onto the general tax rolls in public disability, like Social Security Disability, Medicaid, food stamps, and rent subsidies, all of which every citizen pays for in higher taxes.
I personally attempted to reach each of my Illinois State Representatives in order to express my opinion regarding these four points. However, neither Representative was available to take my call. Despite the fact that they took my phone numbers, I have not received a call back. Neither of these representatives has a posted email address, so contacting them is a bit difficult. Hopefully, my point will be understood, and Illinois’ workers’ compensation laws will not fall into the ashes of states like Indiana.