Independent insurance agents in Illinois are urging state lawmakers to pass workers’ compensation reforms in early January, before a new General Assembly will be sworn in.
“The facts are alarming,” stated Todd Henricks, president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Illinois (IIAI), in a message to the General Assembly urging lawmakers to take steps to lower the cost of the coverage and improve the state’s business climate.
Henricks said workers compensation costs in Illinois were at one time about average in comparison to the 50 states, but he noted that a recent study conducted by the Oregon Department of Commerce and Business Services ranked Illinois’ workers’ compensation costs third highest in the nation.
“Independent agents work with businesses, large and small, every day to obtain the most cost effective coverage for their employees,” said Henricks, “but as other costs have held steady or gone down during the current economic recession, workers compensation costs continue to escalate.”
Henricks said that in addition to business costs, the involuntary assigned risk market has seen rates increase dramatically and as a result, local volunteer fire departments have been forced to pay higher premium rates to cover the volunteer firefighters’ workers’ compensation premiums out of the fire protections district’s property tax receipts.
IIAI supported the last set of reforms enacted in 2005 that updated benefit levels and now believes the rest of the system, including information technology at the Workers Compensation Commission, needs to be updated also.
Henricks said that due to an agreement among Senate leaders whereby all stakeholders will no longer have to sign off on a final bill, a vote could be taken in early January before the new General Assembly is sworn in.
The Senate Special Committee on Workers’ Compensation Reform held hearings on Nov. 29 and Dec. 8, with a deadline of Jan. 3 for a bill, according to IIAl.
The House also appointed a special committee and held hearings Dec. 15 and 16.
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