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Workers comp reform backers optimistic about Illinois action

Workers comp reform backers optimistic about Illinois action

Two workers compensation reform bills that Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed have failed to advance in the Democrat-controlled legislature, but experts remain hopeful about Illinois passing such legislation during the current session.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-4 Wednesday along party lines to defeat an amendment to S.B. 994, said Jeffrey Junkas, assistant vice president of state government relations at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America in Des Plaines, Illinois.

The amendment included several workers comp reforms Gov. Rauner has backed, including stricter causation standards for comp claimants to demonstrate that their injuries are work-related and a reduced workers comp medical fee schedule.

“It's disappointing because this is an opportunity that was lost, I think, to advance meaningful reforms,” Mr. Junkas said of the amendment's defeat.

Illinois H.B. 4223, a sister bill with wording similar to the state Senate amendment, was referred to the state House Rules Committee on Friday, according to the Illinois General Assembly website.

Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan last week introduced three workers comp reform proposals as amendments to H.B. 1287. The amendments, which mirrored Gov. Rauner's plan, were voted down by the Democratic majority House.

Still, Stephen Schneider, Midwest region vice president at the American Insurance Association in Deerfield, Illinois, said the insurance community is optimistic that Illinois lawmakers will have continued discussions during the current session about workers comp reforms, including some ideas the AIA would like to see proposed.

Those include controls on physician dispensing of medication to workers comp claimants and tying the state's workers comp medical fee schedule to a percentage of Medicare pricing for similar services.

“It's going to be day-by-day through the end of session and perhaps longer,” Mr. Schneider said of the chances of action on comp-related legislation.

PCI's Mr. Junkas agreed that workers comp reforms may still be on the table for Illinois, saying many political experts expect the legislative session to extend beyond its scheduled May 31 adjournment.

“There's going to be continual discussions ongoing, and I think workers compensation's going to remain in that mix,” Mr. Junkas said.

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