9-17-2019; Thoughts from Two WC Experts on the Crisis that is IL SB 904; Save the Date for 9-29-2108 Charity Golf to Fight Cancer and more

Synopsis: Thoughts from Two Experts on the Coming Crisis that is IL WC SB 904.

 

Editor’s comment: Below you will see more thoughts from Dr. David Fletcher who is a strong proponent of the new legal model of IL SB 904 that may divide resolution of workers’ comp claims in this State between our IWCC and the Circuit Courts in the 102 Counties across this State. You may note Dr. Fletcher is concerned about timely collection of WC medical bills, the addition of statutory interest to such billing and the IL WC Medical Fee Schedule. I would comment on my view that IL SB 904 doesn’t directly address adjudication of the accurate medical fee schedule amounts due and owing to a treating doctor or other healthcare giver.

 

For myself, my colleagues on both sides of the IL WC Bar, numerous insurance carriers and TPA’s, I want to challenge the members of Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the IL WC Advisory Board, the IL WC Lawyers Association and all other interested persons and organizations to stop sitting on their hands about this proposed legislation. The Illinois State Medical Society and Dr. Fletcher repeatedly indicate they have the votes and will rapidly override the Governor’s amendatory veto in the November fall legislative veto sessions. When and if that happens, the IL WC system is going to be shaken to its core. In my view, the number one benefit in WC across the globe is medical care and the number one priority of any effective WC system should be proper and timely payment for medical care rendered.

 

I have been advised the folks at ISMS feel there is an obvious legislative anomaly in not allowing doctors, hospitals and other caregivers to have standing to collect medical bills on accepted claims. A similar issue applies to the legislation that provided these same businesses with the ability to charge reasonable interest rates on such billing. In general, I agree with their concerns and last week proposed we look to other states for better solutions than IL SB 904.

 

The main complaint of IL healthcare givers is patent—the IL WC system is dramatically flawed if they have no legal or administrative “standing” to rapidly collect medical billing and statutory interest. I strongly agree with them and assert we need legislation and a strategy to allow doctors, clinics, hospitals and other medical caregivers to rapidly and smoothly use the services of the IL WC Commission to resolve their billing issues and GET PAID.

 

The main issue with IL SB 904 isn’t the overall goal—it is the problem with creating parallel venues to adjudicate WC issues. In my view this concept isn’t going to work nearly as well as the proponents of this bill feel it is. This is going to create a crisis this troubled state doesn’t need with Circuit Court judges that know little about workers’ comp being asked to become experts on it. Everyone also feels every unpaid WC medical bill may lead to litigation, causing an explosion of lawsuits unlike any this industry has ever seen.

 

I am sure the legislative experts at the IL State Chamber of Commerce and Governor Rauner are correct—we need to move/correct/retain these medical/legal issues at the IWCC now and forever.

 

If you want more details on my overall concerns, send a reply. The next part of this is from Dr. Fletcher. I send him my appreciation and thanks for letting me share it with you.

 

 

Commentary on the Amendatory Veto for IL SB904 by David Fletcher, M.D., M.P.H.

 

The Illinois medical community is very disappointed that Governor Rauner issued an amendatory veto (AV) on SB904 that was ghostwritten by his cronies at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which continue to propagate  the myth that Illinois has the 2nd highest medical fee schedule in the country, when in fact the most common service (evaluation and management  codes better known as office visits) are reimbursed 85% below the national median and ranks Illinois as the 43rd lowest in the country. 

 

The point that Governor Rauner, the Illinois Chamber (which fails to advocate my business interests by despite being a dues-paying member), and others opposing SB 904 fail to acknowledge is  that the medical community needs an effective solution right now.  SB 904 is not about reform, it’s about enforcing current law. 

 

Illinois physicians who render services to patients covered under the provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, 820 ILCS 305, are to be compensated for their services pursuant to the provisions of 820 ILCS 305/8.2. As part of that compensation, physicians are entitled to receive statutory interest on their unpaid bills as set forth in 820 ILCS 305/8.2(d)(1-3) at 1% interest per month.

 

Serving for the past eight years on the Illinois Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) Advisory Committee I have consistently pointed out to the last three IWCC Chairmen Weisz, Latz, and Fratianni), who also serve on this WCRI committee,  that this interest provision is a joke.

 

I can provide hundreds of examples that demonstrate that WC insurers have skirted the law regarding interest payments. For example, I had a recent case with Liberty Mutual (08WC012059, McCool v Conair Corp) that the arbitrator ruled on 1/22/18 in favor of the injured worker who got hurt in  December 2007. My bills went unpaid for a decade despite my efforts that got this patient back to  work. Currently, I have $3,420.38 in unpaid interest payments for services I rendered 10 years ago, yet I had to bear upfront all the overhead and labor costs of my practice to care for this injured worker. I have no avenue to recover and my complaint to the Illinois Department of Insurance went unresolved, who instructed me to work it out with Liberty Mutual.

 

Likewise, why no electronic claims 7 years after the 2011 WC reform law mandated it?  Other states have electronic claims for WC claims as it is done currently in Illinois with commercial health insurers for non-work-related claims

 

By rejecting SB 904, Governor Rauner also allows insurers to continue ignoring these mandatory electronic billing requirements enacted in 2011. These insurers are clinging to an all-paper based billing system that delays care and payments (and insurers make money on the float with delay in or non-payment of services). Because there has been no enforcement of existing law, I have to employ a full-time person to process paper bills and pay for postage to submit these paper bills. I would be able to eliminate overnight  $65,000 a year in operating costs if SB 904 becomes law with its original language overwhelmingly passed by super majorities in both houses in May 2018.

 

The Illinois Chamber  wants to keep the unpaid interest dispute in the hands of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC).

 

The esteemed editor of this blog Gene Keefe last week wrote a commentary regarding SB904 and advocates a system like in Indiana (and such a system exists in Wisconsin) that

gives doctors and hospitals a say and, most important, legal standing before their  Indiana work comp Board to fight for payment of unpaid medical bills whereby the claimant is left out of the process.

 

While I would welcome a similar medical fee adjudication system in Illinois since I currently have absolutely no avenue to collect on unpaid bills, the medical community cannot count on the IWCC to fix these pressing issues. As it operates now the IWCC is not prepared to take over enforcement of existing law. Sadly, the IWCC has cancelled 4 of its last 7 Medical Fee Advisory Board meetings, including the meeting scheduled for today (September 17, 2018)

 

It’s disappointing that MFAB meeting is cancelled once again, especially since the Commission is well aware of the problems facing medical providers that is trying to be addressed in SB 904.  If the Rauner administration was serious about setting up a whole new process at the Commission to handle medical billing disputes, don’t you think they would be setting up an emergency MFAB meeting to discuss with the Medical Community

State Sen. Michael Hastings, (D-Tinley Park) the chief sponsor of SB 904 was quoted as saying  in the Work Comp Central trade publication: “It’s garbage that the governor thinks it’s OK for doctors to not get paid….This bill would have protected Illinois physicians as job creators and would have ensured that injured workers are returned to work as soon as possible.”

It is the systematic failure of the Illinois workers compensation system that drives physicians away from taking care of injured workers, which creates access to care problems, that end up costing businesses more money.

 

The Governor fails to recognize that access to quality care that SB904 help address is the real cost savings for employers. Sadly, he ignored the recommendations of his own Republican leadership which urged him to sign the bill.

 

In closing the medical community is encouraged that our message that access to care is being threatened due to non-payment of services has been heard loud and clear by both sides of the aisle in Springfield. The first week of the fall veto session starts Tuesday, November 13 and we work our legislators to override the AV. We believe that SB904 will become law with the amendment intact that was proposed by Jay Hoffman, Democrat, who heads the House labor committee.

 

David J. Fletcher – MD, MPH


Medical Director, SafeWorks Illinois

 

 

Synopsis: CALLING ALL CHARITABLE GOLFERS !!!    Sept 29th is your chance to help make a difference in the lives of children with brain cancer.

 

Editor’s comment:  As many of our clients and fans of the KCBA update are already aware, we work hard to support charities which touch our lives.  Please consider playing in the 3rd Annual Kiss of Hope Open. The Open will be held on September 29th with a 12 noon shotgun at Randall Oaks Golf Course in West Dundee. The day will include many on-course contests, raffle prizes, silent auction AND a helicopter ball drop! KCBA is sponsoring a refreshment cart as well-so come have a refreshment with the Bierys!  Gather your group and click on the link http://ckmc.org/golf2018/ to register to play and make a difference.  

 

Cancer Kiss My Cooley® is a 501c(3) charitable foundation that was created in memory of a very special boy, Carter Kettner. Carter was the 6 year old son of Joe and Cinnamon Kettner. At age 5, he was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brainstem glioma on February 17th, 2009. He loved singing, watching movies, and riding his John Deere tractor. His thoughtfulness and appreciation towards others was unfounded. He was a perfect gentleman, and met every girl with a kiss on the lips. His illness didn’t make him the boy he was; cancer was just something that happened to him. He continued to live every day, trusting his mommy and daddy. He loved his crazy little brother Bowen, and he laughed though his antics, calling him a beast and a freak. He loved his hospitals, doctors and nurses, and did everything that was ever asked of him. Carter was perfection in a son. He was indeed, the meaning of HOPE.  Carter passed away 15 months into his journey (on Shawn Biery’s birthday) and after living through this terrible journey and receiving an outpouring of support, the Kettner’s decided that other families living with cancer should share in similar blessings. So, in December 2010, Carter’s parents came together with an extraordinary group of individuals who were always dubbed “Carter’s Crew”. They incorporated together to form cancer kiss my cooley. CKMC® was named after a phrase that Carter used to say when receiving treatment. We called his backside his “cooley”, which is Italian slang for “rear end”. He would sing “cancer kiss my cooley!” pointing to his backside. Since Carter’s passing and this new idea, the phrase has taken on new meaning. We want to show families that they can also tell cancer to “kiss it”! Live your lives with cancer; fight, yes – but live; make memories, and keep HOPE. So indeed, the Kettner journey did not end; it will continue on.

 

So please consider taking some time to spend September 29th making a difference at Randall Oaks Golf Course in West Dundee. Click on the link http://ckmc.org/golf2018/  to register to play or contact Shawn Biery at sbiery@keefe-law.com for more details.

9-10-2018; Dysfunction Defined--IL SB 904 Will Create Havoc and More Litigation; Kevin Boyle, JD on Shocking New IN WC Ruling and more

Synopsis: Dysfunction Defined--IL SB 904 Will Create Workers’ Comp Legal Havoc and Lots More Litigation. How About An Alternative??? Thoughts, Comments and Opinions by Gene Keefe, J.D.

 

Editor’s comment: IL SB 904 is unusual and unprecedented IL WC legislation that may be coming at the IL WC community in about sixty-seventy days during the fall veto session of our legislature. Sponsored by ISMS, the dual goal appears to be getting doctors, hospitals and other caregivers the ability to sue in Circuit Court to collect both unpaid medical bills and statutory interest of 1% per month on unpaid bills. Governor Bruce Rauner provided an amendatory veto that would alter the basic model of having work comp claims decided in two venues and bring all WC claims back to the IWCC.

 

Please note I always want doctors and hospitals to be paid in a timely fashion and in the accurate amounts when properly coded medical bills are presented to a self-insured employer or insurance carrier. In this day and age, I am sure it is amazingly hard to believe how few doctors and other medical vendors can provide properly coded medical billing. I do feel most hospitals do a much better job of handling, coding and collecting medical bills.

 

Let’s look at Dysfunction Defined in IL WC.

 

Starting around 1909 after the Cherry Mine Disaster which left thousands of widows and children, the IL legislature, in its wisdom crafted the first workers’ comp bill in this State’s history. For the most part and with very few exceptions, all workers’ comp issues are adjudicated by a State agency specifically created and exclusively managed for the sole purpose of adjudicating workers’ comp benefits.

 

Please note if you analyze the tri-partite benefits under all workers’ compensation systems in the history of this planet, we are looking at medical costs and care as the number one WC benefit to injured workers. Lost time replacement benefits and permanency/impairment awards/settlements are usually the next two WC benefits in terms of costs and importance. IL SB 904 would therefore unquestionably split adjudication of the number one WC benefit into two separate venues—the Circuit Courts across the 102 counties of this State and the IL WC Commission which also holds hearings in numerous locations.

 

Please also remember the adjudication of workers’ comp benefits at the IWCC is tightly controlled at all levels—Petitioner attorneys cannot charge whatever they decide as hourly rates to handle WC claims. Their compensation is generally limited to 20% of whatever benefits might be in dispute.

 

Under IL SB 904, there are no limits on what attorneys might charge to represent their clients in the Circuit Courts. I am also certain there are court costs and other levies attendant to all Illinois litigation. As you read this, the IWCC does not charge any fees or other levies to reimburse the State for what is spends on hearing officers, court calls, computer tracking/storage and other related costs. Those costs are paid from levies on Illinois employers.

 

Similarly medical bills presented for care under the IL WC Act are tightly controlled—there is the ever-changing IL WC Medical Fee Schedule that greatly cuts what might otherwise be due or paid under the appropriate CRT medical billing codes. Lots of doctors and others complain about how low some of the WC medical reimbursements have become but the important thing to remember is a WC medical bill is not the same a what you might be charged by a plastic surgeon or other healthcare giver not constrained by IL WC law.

 

What Do You Mean Attorneys’ Fees Will Be Needed for Lots of Parties in WC Circuit Court Collection Claims?

 

I don’t believe ISMIS and the others lobbying for SB 904 looked at the whole enchilada, baby. In my humble view, when work comp-related medical bills go unpaid and the medical caregiver wants their dough plus statutory interest, there is going to have to be a judicial finding the claim is “workers’ comp.” Before a Circuit Court judge could make such a determination, they would have to have all relevant parties in front of them to be subject to the Court’s final ruling. The relevant parties would be the

  • Party seeking collection—the doctor, hospital or other medical vendor;

  • The injured worker;

  • The employer for the injured worker and

  • The WC insurance carrier or TPA (third party administrator).

 

Please note the determination a workers’ comp medical bill is due and owing would require the judge to make a binding determination—the matter has to truly be “workers’ compensation.” To make that decision, preliminary issues would include the Court having to make findings as to jurisdiction, employer-employee status, accident arising out of and in the course of employment and causal connection. It is also possible the judge would have to determine the bills are reasonable, necessary and related. The judge would also have to be presented accurately coded bills that comply with the IL WC Medical Fee Schedule.

 

Please note all of the above decisions might and could be made long before Claimant might later file an Application for Adjustment of Claim at the IWCC. That said, the Circuit Court’s determination would be res judicata or under what is also called “issue preclusion,” the Circuit Court judge’s ruling would be at least a preliminary ruling that would unquestionably impact all other issues in the IL WC claim.

 

The “binding determination” I mention above might not be simple at all. I think the drafters and supporters of IL WC SB 904 think everyone gets injured in front of five nuns and six rabbis and there are never any questions about compensability. To the contrary, many IL WC claims have obvious issues and concerns and run the gamut from reliable to fraud-laced.

 

Please also remember starting the IL WC process in Circuit Court opens up a can of litigation worms like discovery, motion practice, appeals and whatever. Our courts aren’t always rapid and smooth—that is why we have courts.

 

Either way, if SB 904 gets past the Governor’s amendatory veto, a sweeping new sort of litigation will hit our Circuit Courts. Lots of new litigation over WC-related medical bills could be brought shortly after the care is provided and this is going to bring lots of injured workers, their employers and insurance carriers into our Courts. In my view, if a worker is sued by their doctor for an unpaid medical bill, the worker is going to need an attorney at their own expense to avoid getting defaulted or their work injury claim denied without a hearing.

 

How Do We Fix This Mess? Please look to the IN WC System!!!

 

Our amazing law partner Kevin Boyle confirms IN WC gives doctors and hospitals a say and, most important, legal standing before their IN WC Board to fight for payment of unpaid medical bills. Claimant is left out of the process.

 

The important thing to me is the whole issue is resolved rapidly under their WC system and NOT in the Circuit Court.

 

This IWCB link has all the info, with links to the procedures, rules, too:

 

https://www.in.gov/wcb/2486.htm

 

I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.

 

 

Synopsis: Shocking New Indiana Court of Appeals case: No CGL Coverage Owed for Employee’s Electric Shock Injury. Article and analysis by our IN WC Defense Team Leader, Kevin Boyle, J.D.

Editor’s comment: The Indiana Court of Appeals just issued an interesting Memorandum Decision relevant to worker’s compensation claims in Smith v. Progressive Southeastern Insurance Co., Case No. 18A-PL-340, published 08/31/2018.

Smith worked for Skelton’s tree-trimming business for many years. Skelton provided all tools and work apparel for about $10/hr in cash. He periodically worked 30 hours/week with no overtime, no income taxes were withheld, and no 1099 was ever completed.

 

Smith cut down a tree by himself that struck an electric wire on a nearby utility pole, knocking the wire to the ground. Smith called Skelton about it, and Skelton drove to the scene with his bucket truck and 65-foot boom. Both men got into the bucket of the truck to fix the situation, Smith grabbed the wire, and ZAP: he sustained serious injuries and was in hospitals for a couple months.

 

Skelton’s CGL carrier filed a declaratory judgment to determine whether it owed coverage for Smith’s accident. The CGL policy excluded coverage for any worker’s compensation claims, injuries to employees arising out of and in the course of employment, with certain Auto and other  exclusions potentially relevant to the incident.

 

The trial court granted summary judgment for the carrier that no coverage was owed for Smith’s accident, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals held that Smith was employed by Skelton and that there was a causal nexus between his employment and his activities when injured. Smith wasn’t in the bucket or trying to fix the broken wire for person reasons. His injuries were born out of a risk incidental to the employment, and they occurred in the course of that employment. Broken wires tend to occur during this type of work and Skelton had previously broken wires before, too. The policy language that excluded coverage for employees and for obligations arising under the workers’ compensation law were both applicable here.

 

Also, the Auto coverage exclusion applied because the bucket truck qualified as an “auto” and the truck’s use was the cause of Smith’s injuries. Finally, the policy was not void as against public policy, too. It did not provide illusory coverage.

 

If you’d like a copy of the opinion, please email me: kboyle@keefe-law.com. Please be aware that technically, pursuant to Indiana Appellate Rule 65(D), this Memorandum Decision should not yet be regarded as precedent or cited before any court except for the purpose of establishing the defense of res judicata, collateral estoppel, or the law of the case.

9-3-2018; Busy Week in IL WC; SB 904 Amended by Gov Rauner--Will It Stick?; Governor Rauner Reappoints 11 Arbitrators; One Law Adds CE Req'ment for Opioid Prescribers and Medical Marijuana OK'd

Synopsis: Governor Rauner Amends/Nixes ISMIS Effort To Move IL WC Medical Bill Litigation to IL Circuit Courts.

 

 

Editor’s comment: Under the guise of “access to medical care” the Illinois State Medical Society or ISMIS is fighting to have some WC issues adjudicated at the IWCC and WC-related medical bills adjudicated in the Circuit Courts—what a mess. Please note if this legislation becomes law, the entire IL WC system is certain to go topsy-turvy—this will be a seminal change for risk managers, attorneys on both sides, doctors, hospitals, claims handlers. EVERYONE!!!

 

There do seem to be hard feelings about this legislation—I am unsure why. In my view, ISMIS and others should focus on getting faster, effective and more streamlined adjudication in the IL WC system we already have. Splitting the process is certain to be dysfunctional, as outlined below.

 

I received the following from Jay Dee Shattuck who is with the Illinois State Chamber. This is unedited by me but if you want the attachment mentioned, I will send it one at a time. I agree strongly with Jay and hope his effort to avoid double-trouble in handling medical bill payments in separate venues is successful.

 

A quick search of other states found no jurisdiction with a comp statute that authorizes or creates a comparable cause of action of allowing a medical provider to bring suit for payment of a comp claim in a court of primary jurisdiction against an employer/insurer.  

 

There is a provision in California law allowing a medical provider to seek a lien on an employer over disputed medical in a comp case, which serves to effectively create collateral litigation with the provider and employer as primary parties in interest. As of August 2016, California was the only state with such a provision. Hawaii had some legislation pending that has not been enacted.

 

A primary (and important) distinction between the provision of SB 904 and the California law is that the California lien claims are litigated and adjudicated before the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and not in a court of general jurisdiction as proposed in SB 904. My understanding of the California process is more like allowing medical providers to seek something like a DJ (or declaratory judgment) from the Commission on the merits and validity of the claim and the necessity/extent/value of the services provided to the petitioner. Even with the substantially less burdensome approach than what’s provided in SB 904, the California lien process has been costly and has produced undesirable results, including a huge volume of lien claim litigation, the filing of a large volume of frivolous liens, and a cottage industry of pursuing claims on assigned rights on liens. 

 

Approximately 35% of the WCAB docket is comprised of these lien claims and employers/insurers spend about $200 million per year in loss adjustment alone. Another issue is that of assignment of rights on the liens. The 2016 brief describes the multitude of problems these liens have caused and an uptick in fraudulent practices being perpetrated by assignees of liens that the brief attributes to flaws in the system. Firms securitizing, packaging, and ultimately trolling on potential proceeds of medical comp claim lawsuits shouldn’t sit well with anyone. 

 

SB 904's new cause of action may also create a new industry of firms buying rights to medical, especially on questionable cases, and trolling for nuisance settlements or worse. This is effectively what the California lien system has caused, and these are just administrative adjudications, not claims in a court of general jurisdiction. 68 businesses comprising the top one percent of lien filers filed more than 273,000 liens totaling $2.5 billion in accounts receivable on adjudicated cases between 2013 and 2015. Two of the business owners are indicted and three others have pled guilty. (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/600-million-in-workers-compensation-liens-filed-by-convicted-or-indicted-physicians-providers-300316091.html)

 

The proponents of this legislation mislead legislators by claiming their intent is that the change to allow pursuit of circuit action is only for "authorized" care. Two problems...first, the provision in SB 904 does not limit the action to such cases. If SB 904 were enacted, the law would read:

 

(3) In the case (i) of nonpayment to a provider within 30 days of receipt of the bill which contained substantially all of the required data elements necessary to adjudicate the bill, (ii) of nonpayment to a provider of a portion of such a bill, or (iii) where the provider has not been issued an explanation of benefits for a bill, the bill, or portion of the bill up to the lesser of the actual charge or the payment level set by the Commission in the fee schedule established in this Section, shall incur interest at a rate of 1% per month payable by the employer to the provider. Any required interest payments shall be made by the employer or its insurer to the provider not later than 30 days after payment of the bill. 

(4) If the employer or its insurer fails to pay interest required pursuant to this subsection (d), the provider may bring an action in circuit court to enforce the provisions of this subsection (d) against the employer or its insurer responsible for insuring the employer's liability pursuant to item (3) of subsection (a) of Section 4. Interest under this subsection (d) is only payable to the provider. An employee is not responsible for the payment of interest under this Section. The right to interest under this subsection (d) shall not delay, diminish, restrict, or alter in any way the benefits to which the employee or his or her dependents are entitled under this Act.

 

Do you see anything that limits this section to a bill that is "authorized??? The Gov's AV (amendatory veto) limits the 1% per month interest to "undisputed" bills.

 

Second, as you know, it is not uncommon for care to be "authorized" but problems arise with the bill charges and a dispute occurs. Miscoding, unbundling, services that do meet the UR standards of care, etc. If medical providers have the power to pursue unpaid bills for all authorized care two results are likely: care authorization will not be offered until all services are agreed upon delaying care for injured workers; or, medical billing abuses will explode.

 

Another change of concern in SB 904 is the provision being added to Section 8.2a Electronic claims. The Department of Insurance is to establish rules that:

 

" Ensure that health care providers are responsible for supplying only those medical records pertaining to the provider's own claims that are minimally necessary under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996."

 

My fear is that providers will severely limit what records are available to an employer to determine causation and compensability.

 

The IL Medical Society has refused to negotiate any of the SB 904 provisions. There are solutions to resolve what they say are their issues without potentially creating significant problems for employers.

 

I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.

 

Synopsis: Governor Rauner Reappoints 11 Sitting Arbitrators.

 

Editor’s comment: Other than to again confirm we still have too many Arbitrators in this State, as IL WC claims continue to drop, I have no problem with the re-appointment of these great hearing officers.

  1. Jessica Hegarty, an IL WC Arbitrator since 2014. She was with a very successful and connected personal injury law firm but demonstrates great perspective in pre-trials and trials.
  2. Jeffrey Huebsch, first appointed as an IL WC Arbitrator in 2013. He previously was a defense lawyer who has become a moderate and fair hearing officer.
  3. Nancy Lindsay, an IL WC Arbitrator since 2011. Nancy was an IL workers' compensation Commissioner from 2006 to 2011.
  4. Christine Marie Ory, appointed as an IL WC Arbitrator in 2015. She was with an insurance carrier, Ralph Gabric’s office and her own shop before moving into the Commission spot.
  5. Maureen Pulia, a strong hearing officer since 2003. Maureen is brutally fair and sharp in relation to legal and factual determinations.
  6. Melinda Rowe-Sullivan, an IL WC Arbitrator since 2015. I have not appeared before her yet but look forward to a pretrial or trial when the time comes.
  7. Douglas Steffenson, appointed by Governor Rauner in 2015. We feel Doug is reasonable, fair and professional.
  8. Maria Bocanegra, who has been an IL WC Arbitrator since 2014. She is reasonable, fair and professional. She may be one of the more liberal, pro-union Arbitrators in this State.
  9. Paul Cellini, an IL WC Arbitrator since 2015. Paul has settled into the position and does solid work.
  10. Stephen Friedman, an IL WC Arbitrator since 2014. Arb. Friedman is a former competitor of mine and one of the most knowledgeable WC lawyers in this State.
  11. Gerald Granada has worked as an Arbitrator since 2011. Gerry practiced law before the IWCC on both sides of the matrix and is a friendly and hard-working hearing officer.

 

Synopsis: New IL Law Strengthens Effort to Fight Opioids By Adding Continuing Education Requirement. Another Law Legalizes Medical Marijuana for WC Claimants In Lieu of Opioids.

 

Editor’s comment: The new law requires continuing education for prescribers on safe dispensing. It is hoped this is going to block over-prescription of these killer drugs in the IL Work Comp arena.

 

 

Last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner took another step to strengthen the State's effort to combat the opioid crisis by requiring medical professionals to take 3 hours of existing continuing education on how to safely prescribe opioid medications. The education requirement became law when he signed Senate Bill 2777 amending the Illinois Controlled Substance Act. "We're fighting this opioid crisis every day," Rauner said. "It's impacted too many families here in Illinois. We've given people who struggle with substance use more opportunities to get the help they need. We've started a 24-hour Helpline where they can get connected to treatment options. There's a standing order for using opioid reversing Naloxone. We've boosted reporting requirements to our Prescription Monitoring Program to halt ‘doctor-shopping.'"
 
"Now, we want to make sure our doctors see potential signs of abuse and are cautious when prescribing opioid medications to those who need them, cutting back on the potential for addiction," he continued.
 
The legislation was championed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Impacted professions that hold a separate controlled substance license include: Physicians, Podiatric Physicians, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, Physician Assistants, Dentists, Clinical Psychologists, Optometrists, and Veterinarians.
  
An estimated 11 million Americans have misused opioids in the past year, approximately 1.9 million Americans are addicted to opioids, and 4 out of 5 heroin users started out on prescription opioids
 
On a related front, Illinois injured workers will qualify for medical marijuana in lieu of opioids. Republican Gov. Rauner also signed
Senate Bill 336, which expands the state’s medical marijuana access. Known as the Alternatives to Opioids Act of 2018, it establishes a pilot program under which physicians may prescribe marijuana for patients who are taking opioids or who have a condition for which opioids could be prescribed. 

 

The bill did not exclude workers’ compensation patients from the program, as other states have done.

 

Please remember marijuana remains illegal on the federal level.