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Trade associations oppose Illinois workers comp bills

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Workers compensation reform in Illinois is an ongoing issue that state lawmakers are attempting to address, but insurance trade associations opposed two bills that gained traction in the legislature last week.

H.B. 2525, which is pending final passage and was scheduled to be called for a House concurrence vote on Wednesday, would establish regulations for insurers in setting rates.

The American Insurance Association spoke out against H.B. 2525 because the Washington-based trade group said it would place price controls on workers comp insurers selling policies in Illinois.

“It's the harshest and most opposed regulatory type of structure that I have ever seen because we are going to have to seek permission from the government to charge a final price on the workers compensation insurance that we provide to our customers,” Steve Schneider, Chicago-based vice president for state affairs for the Midwest region for the American Insurance Association, said Wednesday in an interview with Business Insurance.

“Part of the decision-making by the state ... is whether those premiums are reasonable, and we just think that is an extraordinarily broad reach of power for the government to assume … we are opposing H.B. 2525 on that basis,” he continued. “The sponsors of the bill have put in some weak language designed to give us the gloss of reform, but it is simply insufficient. There is no independent verification of the amount or types of savings that this legislation would produce.”

The second bill, H.B. 2622, would allow the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission operations to loan up to $10 million to help create Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Co., a domestic mutual insurance company. H.B. 2622 has passed both chambers and is awaiting signature from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“We have absolutely no objection if someone wants to come along and set up another insurance company — the more competition there is, the merrier it can be,” Mr. Schneider said. “There are presently 332 insurance companies competing for workers compensation insurance ... we have no objection if someone wants to come along and start their own insurance company. But when you put the state of Illinois that is somewhere in the neighborhood of $125 and $140 billion in debt, put them in the insurance business, allow them to borrow more money to set up an insurance company that is frankly going to be very weak, that's a mistake. That is a terrible move for the taxpayers and business in Illinois.”

Both AIA and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said they plan to ask the governor to veto the bill.

“A massive government intrusion in the workers compensation system is not only ill-conceived, but unnecessary, as Illinois already has a very competitive workers compensation market with over 300 companies offering coverage,” the Chicago-based Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said in a statement released Friday. “The focus of reform should be on helping injured workers get healthy and advancing changes that address underlying costs for Illinois businesses. Legislation such as H.B. 2525 and 2622 with debunked notions about insurance rate regulation simply shifts attention away from the real solutions needed to reform Illinois' workers compensation system.”