Illinois Senate Rejects Workers’ Compensation Changes

April 18, 2011

A Republican plan to overhaul the Illinois workers’ compensation system failed April 14 in the state Senate, largely over the question of whether workers should be required to prove injuries are job-related.

Republicans want that requirement. They say it would protect businesses from fraudulent claims.

Democrats, however, argue businesses would routinely challenge claims and delay legitimate payments for workers’ injuries.

The measure needed 30 votes to pass but got only 25. Six people voted “no” and 28 voted “present.”

Lawmakers, business groups and unions continue negotiations on a plan that both parties could support. Democrats and Republicans alike say Illinois must reduce the cost of workers’ compensation to improve the state’s business climate.

“It’s time to put job creators first, not special-interest groups,” said Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington.

Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that covers lost wages and medical bills when employees are injured. It’s a “no fault” plan, meaning that it doesn’t matter whether injuries are caused by workers, businesses or simple bad luck.

Businesses argue the system is so wide open that someone could seek compensation for an injury that actually occurred on the basketball court or at a previous job.

They also want tougher standards on judging a worker’s level of impairment, lower prices for medical service and more control over what doctor provides a worker’s care.

Democrats don’t entirely reject such changes, and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed a reform package that includes some of them. But Democratic senators said the plan offered by Republicans on Thursday still needs work.

“This ain’t soup yet,” said Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago. “There are some serious shortcomings in this bill.”

The bill is SB1349.

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