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Illinois comp reform drama


If they handed out an Academy Award for best drama in reforming a state workers compensation system Illinois lawmakers would win for their stunning maneuvers, yet nothing may come of it.

Even movie star turned governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's performance in pushing California's 2004 workers compensation reforms wasn't nearly as dramatic as events that unfolded in Illinois over Memorial Day weekend.

Late Sunday evening Illinois' House fell 5 votes short of passing reform legislation that was long in the works and would have cut $500 million to $700 million in annual costs.

It would have done so by slashing the state's medical fee schedule by 30%.

The state's Senate adopted the measure on Saturday, which was very watered down compared to what Illinois employers have sought. They have long wanted the standard of “causation” changed so the workplace must be the major contributing cause of an accident.

The fact that the causation issue was not included in the reform bill killed by the House was a major loss for employers, according to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce

Employers also wanted a strict application of AMA guidelines to determine impairment and the use of PPO networks for treating injured workers.

Without those measures employers argued that the legislation didn't amount to real reform, which angered some lawmakers.

Employers wouldn't have gained what they really wanted, but at least they would have received some of savings from the fee schedule reduction.

But some House Republicans didn't like those savings coming on the backs of medical providers so they killed the bill.

As of Monday, another bill remained alive that would abolish Illinois' work comp system. That is similar to threatening to shoot oneself in the head with a very large caliber handgun to rid of an annoying headache.

It's a silly threat.

Yet Illinois' House passed that bill last week, probably as a negotiating ploy. But with it still in play, the drama continues.