Illinois’ attorney general has praised parts of the recently approved workers’ compensation overhaul, but she says it would be a “gross overstatement” to call the system reformed.
Lisa Madigan said even with the overhaul, the standard for proving that taxpayer money should pay for an injury is still too low. Attorneys from her office defend workers’ compensation cases brought by state employees.
“To say we’ve reformed the workers’ comp system is a gross overstatement,” Madigan told the Belleville News-Democrat.
Injured workers need to prove that only some part of their job could have aggravated an injury or condition. Madigan said that “even if it’s only slightly, then the state is liable for all workers’ compensation benefits,” including medical care and any disability award.
Given the standard, defending against some cases is “very difficult to do, if not impossible,” she said.
But Madigan also had praise for portions of the legislation, including the requirement that workers’ compensation arbitrators be lawyers who must adhere to the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct. And she approved of a move that would generally reduce medical fees by 30 percent.
Legislators approved the overhaul earlier this month, and Gov. Pat Quinn has said he’ll sign it. If he does sign, the law would take effect Sept. 1.
Businesses complain that workers’ compensation is far too expensive. Unnecessary treatment is allowed, medical fees are too high and awards to injured workers are too large, they say.
The changes are supposed to cut between $500 million and $700 million from workers’ compensation, which totals $3 billion.
The News-Democrat has published a series of reports based on its own probe of workers’ comp claims. The newspaper reports that its probe has led to five investigations, including two criminal probes.
Information from: Belleville News-Democrat