Will Workers' Comp Reform Be a Reality in 2017?

Date: January 17, 2017

IL employers currently pay the highest WC costs in the Midwest.

Small business optimism has been on a significant upswing following the results of the November election, but for small businesses in Illinois, there remains much to be done. One of the top priorities? Workers’ compensation reform.

In a recent op-ed featured in Crain’s Chicago Business, Gov. Rauner outlined his case for why workers’ compensation reform was so badly needed and some proposed changes that could help. As it stands currently, employers across Illinois list the state’s broken workers’ compensation system as one of the two biggest challenges to doing business in Illinois. It’s no surprise why, either. To begin with, workers’ comp costs in Illinois are the most expensive in the Midwest and tied for seventh most expensive in the nation (around $3 billion per year) for employers. And taxpayers are on the hook for more than $400 million per year in workers’ comp costs for state, county, and municipal government employees.

  Gov. Rauner’s proposed reforms include:

  • Rebalancing the fee schedule to facilitate savings since the cost for some procedures remains up to five times pricier than the comparable Medicare rate
  • Looking at benefit circumstances the system wasn’t designed for to help rein in compensation costs, which is up to three times higher than the national average
  • Reforming causation standards to exclude degenerative conditions
  • Restoring commonly accepted practices that were overturned by judicial decisions, such as reinstituting award caps for shoulder and hip injuries, overturning expanded circumstances for compensation for a traveling employee, and restoring an employer’s ability to defend themselves against claims in which the employee’s intentional actions caused the injury

“Ultimately, we will all benefit from balanced reform,” wrote Gov. Rauner. “Employers will save costs, Illinois will be a more attractive place in which to create jobs, workers will still be protected in the case of a workplace injury while enjoying greater job opportunities, and the state and local governments will experience a broader tax base through growth.”

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