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Workers Compensation: State of Illinois considers abandonment of the system

The Associated Press reported that the State of Illinois is considering abandonment of the Workers Compensation system. In its place would be a system where injured workers have to litigate in order to receive medical and indemnity benefits. If businesses and employees share the goal of providing prompt medical treatment and payment for lost wages to injured workers, this legislation should be opposed on a priority basis.

Illinois implemented Workers Compensation in 1912 based upon a simple no-fault principle: People injured on the job would receive prompt medical care, payment of lost wages and compensation for certain permanent disabilities without having to prove fault. In exchange, they would give up the right to sue their employer. This system operates in all fifty states and is funded by either private insurance carriers or state funds. It is far from perfect, but injured workers don’t have to wait years and grind through expensive litigation to receive benefits. If Illinois legislators are truly interested in controlling workers compensation costs, they could draft legislation which addresses the following:

  • Give employers the right of medical control to end “doctor shopping” by injured workers
  • Require stricter safety standards in the workplace
  • Stiffen the penalties for fraud
  • Incentivizing employers who have a proven commitment to safety
  • Streamlining the current workers compensation bureau to limit attorney involvement; the system was supposed to be no-fault in the first place

Workers compensation has proven to be an equitable method of compensating injured employees. Undoubtedly the system could be improved, but scrapping it altogether is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water.

William Gallagher Associates is a leading provider of insurance brokerage, risk management and employee benefits services to firms with complex risks and dynamic needs, within industries that include technology, life sciences, financial risks, health care, renewable energy & clean technology, and environmental services. WGA has offices in Boston, MA; New York, NY; Hartford, CT; Princeton, NJ; Columbia, MD; and Atlanta, GA.

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