We are nearing 2 years post changes to the Illinois Workers Compensation Act. The impact of the changes is profound and not beneficial to the everyday worker.
Any employer or insurance company that says that the recent changes are not reducing costs is wrong. If costs to employers and insurance companies are not down, then the insurance companies are lining their pockets even more. Remember insurance companies did not become one of the wealthiest industries in the world by paying claims and being fair.
The impact of the changes to the Workers Compensation Act has resulted in reduced medical expenses, reduced payments, and increased costs for the worker in trying to pursue their claims. Insurance companies are denying more and more cases. As more cases are denied, then more depositions are needed and litigation costs rise. The more litigation, then the longer the case goes on without the worker being able to obtain the medical treatment needed. The insurance companies are trying to starve out the workers. Workers compensation costs are being shifted to group insurance and disability benefits, if available. Some workers are giving up on their cases. It is more important now than ever to obtain legal representation for your case at the outset of the claim. The heightened need to obtain an attorney is directly related to the recent changes. You want to be pro-active in your case, and that cannot be done if you go to a lawyer after the insurance company has already denied the case, or denied benefits such as weekly pay or medical treatment.
I would not call the recent changes reform. Reform means to make changes in order to improve it. This is not reform because the changes did not improve the system. Like anything, there were things that needed to be changed in the system. Employers and insurance companies did have some legitimate concerns. However, employers and insurance companies were not interested in reform, but rather to strip workers of their rights, increase profits at the cost of worker safety, and long term financial security.
The insurance companies and Chamber of Commerce lobbyists created a false scandal and used other problems with our State to push their agenda and strip workers of their rights. Companies such as Caterpillar said they are leaving the State because of high taxes and workers compensation costs. First, multinational companies are professionals at trying to avoid taxes and that is why many of them have had headquarters and offices in the Cayman Islands. Second, multinational companies are leaving Illinois in order to bust unions and find cheaper labor with no benefits. Regardless of workers compensation these jobs are leaving the State of Illinois for southern states such as Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. The multinational companies are going to these states because they are right to work states and they can pay the workers significantly less per hour without benefits. Workers compensation reform and costs are just a talking point for the large companies so that they can hide their real agenda and reason for leaving the State of Illinois. Workers compensation was one excuse for the CEO’s to hide behind when shipping jobs out of state.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be writing my blog about the impact of the changes, and specifically, utilization review, AMA impairment ratings, changes to wage differential payment system, cost shifting to group health insurance, disability, and the limiting of access to medical care.