Controversy around workers’ compensation in Illinois

Illinois’ workers’ compensation program is designed to help employees injured while on the job yet this program is the subject of budget concerns.

Illinois residents have the right to go to work every day with the assurance that should they be injured while on the job, workers' compensation will be there for them. Certainly workers' compensation may not cover every work-related incident as there are specific criteria that must be met. However, this no-fault benefits system is something that many people rely on.

Will workers' compensation be there if and when needed? Is it being properly administered and funded? These are just some of the questions being raised now as workers' compensation takes center stage in what may become a heated budgetary issue in the state capitol.

What is the heart of the issue?

As Fox 32 Chicago reports, the rules about medical payments to hospitals and providers for workers' compensation claims changed 11 years ago. Essentially, the amount of money that was required to be paid by employers to providers was increased rather dramatically. Once nicely in line with the national average, Illinois' workers' compensation costs all of a sudden grew out of line with those in most other states. In fact, only six states have costs greater than those in Illinois.

To illustrate the cost issue, a single medical procedure can cost an employer more than double what the exact same procedure can cost Medicare. This issue is now getting the attention of some state lawmakers who are pushing for the rules to be changed. In fact, a decision about this may directly affect the Governor's ability to get a budget deal agreed upon.

Strong support and strong opposition

Generally speaking, democratic lawmakers are supporting a change in the state's approach to workers' compensation costs. They are even asserting that without a change, injured employees could be at risk for not receiving the care they need when they need it. On the other side, the Illinois AFL-CIO union has voiced strong opposition to any change according to the Alton Daily News.

Statistics on workers' compensation claims

The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission's 2013 Annual Report indicates that roughly 50,000 employee claims are made to the commission each year. This represents roughly 25 percent of all workplace injuries that happen. Of those claims, a large percentage is settled through arbitration while a few are dismissed. As many as 4,000 may requiring an official ruling by an arbitrator and about half of all rulings are appealed. Appeals go first to Circuit Courts and then may proceed to an Appellate Court or even the Supreme Court.

Injured workers' rights matter

Whether or not any change is made to how workers' compensation care is paid for remains to be seen. But, what is still known is that injured workers deserve care and benefits for job-related incidents. Talking with an attorney after a work accident is recommended to learn the best way of pursuing benefits.