2-1-2016; Look At ITLA's Spin on Current IL WC Reform; Shawn Biery's New IL WC Rate Sheet is Out--Want A Bunch?; Why Every U.S. Taxpayer Should Consider 'Firing' Your Fire Dep't to Save Millions and..

Synopsis: Breaking News—Here is the IL Trial Lawyers Association’s Most Recent Spin on Governor Rauner’s WC Proposals.


Editor’s comment: See below; we note the phenomenally wealthy Plaintiff bar appears to be making fun of the phenomenally wealthy supporters of the Governor. For our readers, we feel this ongoing IL WC reform debate remains important to claims handlers and risk managers. We want to add our thoughts that


·         IL WC medical reimbursements are already significantlylower than Indiana and many other states;

·         We are certain IL Work Comp coverage, TTD and PPD awards will be lower under our new, professional and proficient Arbitrators and Commissioners so Governor Rauner’s WC reform concepts aren’t worth fighting over in the larger context of our state’s many crises;

·         When the Oregon WC Premium Ratings come out later this year, we fully expect to see additional improvement in IL WC premium costs relative to our sister states;

·         There is literally no reason to follow ITLA’s whiny “regulation of insurance company profits,” just like there is no discernable reason to regulate the profits of ITLA members;

·         We hope Governor Rauner re-focuses on reining in fake government pensions and combining/consolidating state departments and automating hundreds of clunky and duplicative state government functions, like our toll roads.


This came from the ITLA president and is being republished without editing.


It’s Past Time for Gov. Rauner to Govern: Cutting Benefits for Workers Injured on the Job and Compensation for People Harmed by Corporate Wrongdoing Won’t Bring Business or Revenue to Illinois

Statement from Illinois Trial Lawyer Ass’n President Perry Browder - Dateline: January 27, 2016


A legal system fair to the interests of individuals and businesses not only ensures a level playing field for both parties – it also protects the taxpayer. But if Gov. Bruce Rauner has his way, the burden of caring for injured persons would shift from the companies that caused the harm to the taxpayers.


In his State of the State address today, Gov. Rauner renewed his attack on our courts and his demand that lawmakers roll back the financial safeguards that our state’s workers’ compensation and tort systems afford to the vast majority of Illinoisans.


Across Illinois, seniors, individuals with disabilities and other vulnerable citizens are going without vital services because Gov. Rauner is holding the budget hostage until he succeeds in upending our legal system – among other items in his agenda. Yet his proposals relating to workers’ compensation and tort cases would do nothing to improve the state’s financial standing or fund the state services necessary to support individuals in need of critical assistance.


The governor and his big business and insurance supporters continue their push to undercut the rights of injured workers in order to maximize insurance industry profits. They ignore the fact that the 2011 rewrite of the workers’ compensation system – those changes sought by the business community, and which were largely to the detriment of men and women injured on the job – is producing the desired result: lower costs for insurance companies and employers.


As the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission stated in its FY 2014 report, Illinois employers experienced the largest decrease in workers’ comp premiums among all 50 states. And the commission anticipates further savings once the full effects of the 2011 workers’ comp overhaul are felt.


No matter how many benefits are cut, medical reimbursements are lowered, and claims are denied, the state’s businesses won’t see additional savings without our leaders addressing the promises previously broken by the insurance industry. Strictly regulating insurance premiums, not further curtailing injured workers’ rights, is the key to managing employers’ workers’ compensation costs.


The governor also seeks to squelch the civil justice system’s authority to hold wrongdoers accountable in an effort to shield the profits of his big business allies – at the expense of those who suffer due to their malfeasance and the taxpayers who would be left holding the bill.


More than 70 percent of court actions in Illinois are initiated by businesses suing other businesses or individuals for money, but the governor has not proposed limiting the access of corporations, banks and investment companies to the court system. The fact is that very few injured Americans ever file lawsuits. In Illinois, the number of civil cases filed has dropped 33 percent from 2010 to 2014.


Eroding the constitutional rights of citizens to access the courts that their tax dollars fund would send the message that our civil justice system is mainly for the use of corporate actors and the wealthy, rather than something that belongs to everyone, regardless of their means.


Gov. Rauner should abandon his campaign to enlist our legal system into the exclusive service of his phenomenally wealthy supporters, and instead focus on real, meaningful solutions to fix our state’s problems. The state budget cannot be balanced on the backs of those injured due to no fault of their own.


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Synopsis: With apologies to “The Jerk”…..THE NEW IL WC RATE SHEETS ARE HERE!!!, THE NEW IL WC RATE SHEETS ARE HERE!!! Illinois WC Rates Jump Again and Your PPD Reserves Need Retroactive Updating. Email Shawn at sbiery@keefe-law.com and/or Marissa at mpatel@keefe-law.com to Get a Free and Complimentary Hard Copy of Shawn R. Biery’s Updated IL WC Rate-Sheet!


Editor’s comment: We remain disappointed to continue to watch the growth of IL WC rates. Starting in the 1980’s, the IL WC Act provides a formula which effectively insures no matter how poor the IL economy is doing, our WC rates continue to climb and climb some more.


We caution our readers to pay attention to the fact the IL WC statutory maximum PPD rate is now a whopping $769.28. When it was published, this rate changed retroactively from July 1, 2015 to present. If you reserved a claim based on the prior rate for the period from July 1 to right now, your reserves are wrong. If you have a claim with a date of loss after July 2015 and a max PPD rate, you need to take a look and see if the new maximum PPD rate applies. If this isn’t clear, send a reply.


The current TTD weekly maximum has risen to $1,398.23. A worker has to make over $2,097.35 per week or $109,062.20 per year to hit the new IL WC maximum TTD rate. Does any state in the United States have a TTD maximum that high?


The new IL WC minimum death benefit is 25 years of compensation or $524.34 per week x 52 weeks in a year x 25 years or $681,642.00! The new maximum IL WC death benefit is $1,398.23 times 52 weeks times 25 years or a lofty $1,817,699.00 plus burial benefits of $8K. IL WC death benefits also come with annual COLA increases.


The best way to make sense of all of this is to get Shawn Biery’s colorful, updated and easy-to-understand IL WC Rate Sheet. AGAIN—If you want just one or a dozen or more, simply reply to Shawn at sbiery@keefe-law.com and/or Marissa at mpatel@keefe-law.com  They will get a copy routed to you before they raise the rates again! Please confirm your mailing address if you would like laminated copies sent to your home or office!




Synopsis: Smoke and Mirrors--Why Every U.S. Taxpayer Should Consider ‘Firing’ Your Local Fire Department.


Editor’s comment: We have basically seen enough with the antiquated concept of your Village/City/Municipality needing a separate police department and a fire department and emergency medical technicians. The cost of doing for innocent U.S. taxpayers so has gotten outrageous, as you may see below. We suggest our entire country try to see the light on ending the concept of having separate police and fire departments at an enormous and spiraling cost.


Do We Hate Firefighters?


Heck, no. Firefighters save lives every day of every year. They are men and women that are part of your local government who protect you every day and in every way. Our problem isn’t with their brave services, sweat and disdain for danger they bring to the job every day. Our problem is with keeping your local government effective and efficient. Consider consolidating your public safety officers into one department to avoid having firefighters sitting around and doing nothing and they taking fake pensions at gigantic cost to you.


So, Why Do You Feel We Need to Consider ‘Firing” Firefighters?


Well, in IL and lots of states, firefighter and their unions have fostered enough benefit fantasies upon taxpayers to fill a Mickey Mouse© cartoon. Keep reading. In short, you and I and our houses and commercial buildings are all built, inspected and expected to comply with about 500+ parameters of uniform fire/building codes. We are telling our readers and anyone who will listen, the codes and code enforcement are working! If your local properties don’t comply with the codes, they are written up, fined and forced to comply. In short, the number of ‘real’ or major fires in your entire metro area are about once or twice a year at a reasonable cost. Stuff just isn’t burning down the way it did when your grandparents were kids. One urban legend we don’t know or understand is local firefighters simply don’t have to work and endanger their lives in the fashion they did when your parents and grandparents were young. Tell us/write us to let us know the last time you heard of a major building fire in the area around your business or home. We are telling you that your local firefighters are preying on your grandparent’s experiences and hoping you and I are stupid enough not to investigate further.


Who Will Fight The Occasional Fire in Your Village?


We have told our readers in the past, the Village of Glencoe, IL has a model for the entire U.S. They merged their police, fire and EMTs into a single “Public Safety” Department way back in 1954. They don’t have firefighters sitting around a fire station doing nothing. When the need arises, Public Safety officers act as firefighters to get the equipment they need and put out fires or rapidly respond to medical emergencies. The Glencoe Public Safety Department is a full-service, combined public safety agency. Public Safety officers are fully cross-trained to be police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who provide police, fire and emergency medical services when needed. Glencoe was listed as one of the top 50 Safest Cities in IL.


Well, I Looked and It Does Appear Our Local Firefighters Are Going Out on Lots of Calls, Right?


Well, the going-out-on-calls-thing is one of the most irritating and silly things we see firefighters do. If an older civilian guy or gal in a restaurant has a cardiac event/heart attack and the restaurant manager calls the fire department, they may send an ambulance, a separate pumper truck and sometimes they will also send a hook and ladder truck. Why are they wasting the fuel to send three vehicles? In our view, they are hoping you are stupid. They will send three vehicles, two to them non-medical on a medical-only call to make you think the firefighters have stuff to do when they don’t.


Do the math, people. The last reported year for our local municipality, Winnetka, IL had a record of three major fires in a single year. A major fire means they aren’t dealing with a kitchen fire or a barbeque grill that got knocked over and your grannie couldn’t extinguish it. The math for a “major fire” means there are actual flames and smoke and damage for our local firefighters to deal with. The total cost for that year for Winnetka, IL for all fires was $1.4M. The total cost for just benefits paid to our Winnetka firefighters was $1.6M. The overall costs for our Winnetka Fire Department, including salaries, benefits, equipment and uniforms was well over $5M!!! Yes, the total cost for our separate and in our view, goofy local Fire Department was more than triple the amount of money they saved or damage they prevented.


Expand and explore the math for your municipality, people. We have looked across our area and almost all Chicago-area suburbs have the same metrics. Our taxpayers are paying more in just firefighter benefits than the actual damage from fires our local Fire Departments are putting out. The overall costs of having separate police and fire departments are skyrocketing. Consider consolidation for gov’t efficiency and effectiveness with no drop in public safety.


So What The Heck Just Happened to Raise These Flags?


To KCB&A, some of us feel fake gov’t pensions should have the same stigma attached to welfare. We also consider them misleading. In making these statements, we have to remember it isn’t the line government workers who created this system. It is hard to put all the blame on them for taking advantage of a completely botched retirement or disability concept. But at some point, someone has to be responsible for it. We truly feel our IL judiciary should conduct an investigation and hearings into all IL gov’t retirement systems to insure everyone understands expanded coverages and how shockingly expensive these fake pensions are for IL taxpayers—we guesstimate we are actually “paying” firefighters something like $200-300K a year if you were to actually evaluate the true cost of their compensation and pension/healthcare benefits over their lives.


IL Firefighters have fake gov’t pensions of an unusual nature. They are called “line-of-duty” disability pensions. Firefighters are eligible for some of these benefits the first day they are employed. The firefighter doesn’t actually have to be injured or get sick in the actual line of duty to get lifetime and expensive benefits. And if their cards are played correctly, they can get free family healthcare coverage for present or future spouses and children they didn’t have while working for taxpayers.


In Bremer v. City of Rockford, Claimant was a Rockford, IL firefighter. IL firefighters and their unions fought and fought to get a magical benefit—if they become randomly unhealthy for a variety of expected and sometimes arcane reasons, they are entitled to what we call a ‘fake’ occupational line-of-duty disability pension. Please note


1.    They don’t necessarily have to be actually “disabled” from all work—they only have to be disabled from being a firefighter.

2.    The condition doesn’t truly have to be “related” to any exposure at work—it just has to be a personal problem in the right medical category per our misguided legislature.


These concerns echo several problem we have with all IL police and fire fake disability pensions—the former officers keep getting paid as if disabled but can still work second and third jobs and make a lot of money while getting largesse from taxpayers for their lifetime fake pension benefit. As we indicate above, the medical condition doesn’t actually have to have anything to do with their work as a firefighter. They may have cardiac/pulmonary or other medical issues due to being overweight, smoking cigarettes, participating in sports or non-work-related activities. In our view, if a disabled firefighter can work, they can and should be placed in the next available light work position within the municipality to save taxpayers money.


We can’t tell from the published decision whether this former firefighter continues to work a second or third job—it actually isn’t important relative to the ruling and wasn’t mentioned at all. That said, we are sure from the decision this former firefighter developed a heart condition called cardiomyopathy. In cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid. In rare cases, the muscle tissue in the heart is replaced with scar tissue. In street or simple terms, cardiomyopathy is called “hardening of the heart.” For someone with his cardiac condition, as cardiomyopathy worsens, the heart becomes weaker. It's less able to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal electrical rhythm. This can lead to all sort of bad stuff. Please further note cardiomyopathy can be acquired or inherited. "Acquired" means you aren't born with the disease, but you develop it due to another disease, condition, or factor. "Inherited" means your parents or grandparents passed the gene for the disease on to you. Many times, the cause of cardiomyopathy isn't known. But in the case of IL firefighters, it doesn’t matter—if you get a cardiac problem like this, you can retire on the taxpayer’s dime.


Why do the people of the City of Rockford care about this former firefighter developing this unfortunate condition? Well, there is a presumption any heart or pulmonary condition is related to work because firefighters are mystically and magically supposed to come in contact with smoke and icky chemicals in smoke. We don’t agree at all that firefighters live their work lives surrounded by smoke—this is another urban legend. While some firefighters almost certainly come into contact with smoke on a rare, random and occasional basis, in many municipalities, that might happen once or three times in a given calendar year and for minutes at a time.


So why is this former firefighter in court?—well, on top of the fake disability pension, this former officer is seeking lifetime family health care benefits at taxpayer’s cost. It seems a trial judge in the Winnebago County Circuit Court gave him that expensive benefit via summary judgment. Please note that cost is over $13K a year for the taxpayers of the City of Rockford—it will continue to rise every year as all healthcare costs do. After careful review, the IL Appellate Court sent the whole thing back to the Circuit Court for a trial.


Please understand the rising cost of salaries, WC and disability benefits for disparate police and firefighter departments is a cost taxpayers won’t be able to afford in the not-too-distant future. We feel you could consolidate departments and cut the number of “doubled” police and fire public safety workers dramatically. We recommend you follow the lead of the Village of Glencoe and start to merge your public safety departments into a single unit to save literally millions.


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