Synopsis: They fire the old and quickly name a new WC Advisory Board in Illinois. Can we give the new Advisory Board members their first assignment—find a way to close the “Tunnels of Illinois” and make sense of the IL WC causation standard???
First, we would like our readers to get the short version of a meeting we had with a wonderful IL WC adjuster in Lexington, KY last Friday. It appears she had an Illinois worker strain his thumb. She accepted the claim and certified him for a minor thumb repair. Oooops. Without truly being advised, she later finds out:
· He goes to Dr. T for a EMG/NCV at a central Illinois facility;
· Dr. T, as he usually does, finds mild to moderate signs for CTS;
· If you are not sure, Illinois is the only state where hand surgeons will regularly perform CTS surgeries where the signs are either mild or moderate in this objective diagnostic test;
· Dr. T, as he always does, agrees surgery is needed, if the surgeon feels it necessary—Dr. T doesn’t care about what surgeons across the globe do when faced with such results;
· The worker with the accepted minor thumb procedure has controversial bilateral CTS repairs.
The nice adjuster from Lexington asks us if we have all lost our minds in this state. We are sad to advise her, she doesn’t understand how the “Tunnels of Illinois” work. She says she has been adjusting WC claims in numerous jurisdictions for many years. She has no idea why an otherwise normal, healthy male would want both wrists operated on when he only strained his thumb. I told her there are about 50,000 reasons because that is how much the Illinois WC pays in dollars for someone with bilateral CTS repairs, regardless of how dubious the need for the surgeries.
She asked us how to dispute and win the claim in Illinois. Our only answer is to look to our administrators and see what they do with the new changes. Like almost everyone in the IL WC industry, we do not hold out high hopes for significant changes. And we will have to wait and see.
Second, on a similar note, we get a report on CTS from a Doctor A in northern IL. Dr. A is a noted hand surgeon who is with one of the largest hand surgery groups in the Midwest U.S. Claimant has lots of complaints about his hands and the diagnoses are as varied as doctor could make them. The main problem we had with Dr. A is during all the testing and other medical work-up, he casually opined “pain at work, related to work.” You may note this is precisely what the doctor hired by Central Management Services found in regard to the hundreds of CTS claims coming from the Menard Correctional Center.
Our problem with this last sentence is how comical it is to contemplate. The comedy arises from the fact this otherwise competent physician and scientist doesn’t have the slightest idea what this patient does for a living. We are unhappy to tell everyone we are seeing report after report where Illinois doctors are repeatedly relating conditions to “work” without the slightest idea about what they are opining. Such opinions are the peak of the concept of “garbage-in, garbage-out” expert opinions. How can a physician provide a causal connection opinion with any worth if they don’t know what the patient actually does for a living?
Either way last week, Governor Quinn announced the IL WC Advisory Board appointees, which include a mix of workers' compensation attorneys, labor union representatives and business community members. For the first time in Illinois WC history, these new Board members are expected to recommend workers' compensation case arbitrators, who decide claims, and help guide the direction of workers' compensation policy in Illinois.
Quinn's nominations are:
· Mitchell Abbett, human resources and safety manager at Holten Meat Inc. We know nothing about Mr. Abbett other than his title and company name. We note his employer, Holten Meat is just south of East St. Louis in beautiful Sauget, IL.
· Richard Aleksy, a partner at the Chicago law firm Corti, Aleksy& Castaneda. Mr. Aleksy is one of the top claimant lawyers in Illinois WC history. He has an encyclopedic memory and is well-known to all of the Commissioners, Circuit Court Judges and Appellate and Supreme Court justices. We are confident he will be a driving force in selecting Arbitrators. We agree with Mr. Aleksy’s focus on getting disputed claims tried whenever possible. We hope he can provide his vast knowledge of workers’ compensation law and practice into a sustainable causation standard that will keep jobs in this state while providing WC benefits for “real” injuries.
· Aaron Anderson, director and representative for the Painters District Council No. 30 in Aurora, a union representing people in the finishing trades. We know little about Mr. Anderson other than his obvious union ties.
· Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. We are very aware of Mr. Carrigan’s credentials and background. We hope he will bring a balanced approach to this process.
· John Carpenter, senior vice president of public policy for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. We note the Chicagoland Chamber continues to have a strong role in WC changes. Their organization did not provide much value in the 2005 Amendments to the WC Act and we will have to wait and see if they will bring more to the table with their role in selecting new Arbitrators.
· Mark Denzler, vice president and chief operating officer for the Illinois Manufacturers' Association. Watching Illinois manufacturing continue to shrink in relation to our sister states, we hope Mr. Denzler can make the point that reasonable Arbitrators are critical to his members rebounding and bringing jobs back to our state.
· David Halffield, vice president of Sears Holdings Management Corp. We are happy to see this long-time Illinois-based retailer has a knowledgeable representative at the table in this process.
· Phillip Gruber, general vice president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. We don’t know Mr. Gruber’s credentials but we assume his union background will bring another liberal voice to the table.
· William Lowry, attorney at Chicago law firm Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie and Lowry. Mr. Lowry is one of the top defense attorneys in our state. He is knowledgeable and a veteran litigator. It is our hope he can assist in finding Arbitrators with the same drive and intelligence he brings to the office every day.
· Mark Prince, an attorney at the Prince Law Firm in Marion. Mark is a long-time board member of ITLA and will almost certainly bring their liberal to radical focus to the Arbitrator selection concept.
· Sean Stott, director of governmental affairs for the Laborers' International Union of North America, which represents workers in the building and construction trades, among others. This is the fourth union member on the Board.
· David Vite, president and CEO of the Chicago-based Illinois Retail Merchants Association. David is a long-time participant in the legislative process.
One may note there are no women appointees and few minorities or disabled folks. There are two claimant attorneys and one defense attorney, which most claimant lawyers would feel is a proper ‘balance.’ Unions are also heavily represented in relation to their actual role in the Illinois workplace.
The state Senate, which is expected to return to the statehouse in October to address Quinn's vetoes, must approve the new unpaid board members.
We will continue to report progress on their important work. We appreciate your thoughts and comments. If you can correctly identify Drs. A and T from this article, we will send you a free gift.