5-22-2017; Illinois Continues Financially Unsound Ways--WC Proposals/Changes; Thoughts on Jesse Jackson, Jr’s WC Claim; Arbs Moving and more

Synopsis: As Illinois Continues Efforts To Become as Financially Unsound as Puerto Rico, Greece and the City of Detroit, Work Comp Reform Is Still In the News.


Editor’s comment: More miserable news from the Land of Lincoln, this week:


·         Unpaid vendor’s bills in this nutty State now exceed $14.5 billion dollars and continue to rise by millions every day.

·         Butterball Meats and Caterpillar are shuttering two plants in the Aurora, IL area and about 1,400 jobs will be leaving shortly.

·         Illinois judges/justices are in what is being called “career paradise” with effectively part-time jobs that provide unlimited paid time off, unfundable benefits/pensions, salaries that start at $200K+. They are constitutionally guaranteed to get giant, automatic raises to salaries/pensions every year that will eventually quadruple (and more) their compensation.

·         State personal income tax is almost certainly going to be set at about 5% ormore in the near future—many states don’t have a state income tax at all.

·         Our General Assembly appears to be ready to add lots of new and unprecedented service taxes to all sorts of things, like storage space, including garages and boat docks; maintenance of property like cars; landscaping including sprinkler installation and snow removal; dry-cleaning; cable TV, satellite and digital streaming services; pest control; use of a private detective or installation of security systems; and personal care, ranging from tanning to tattooing but—whew--not including hairstyling.


You can’t make this stuff up, folks. No one seems to strongly care about how all those things are driving our taxpayers crazy. With all this State debt, departing jobs/businesses and overpaid government workers, the not-that-important government thing appears to be something as trivial as IL workers’ comp reform. We vote do something to get work comp out of the legislative gun sights and let our leaders get back to the big ticket issues.


From Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates--Two Simple IL WC Reform Proposals To Get Our Claims Industry in Line and Out of the Legislative Cross-Hairs.


We find it a bitpuzzling workers’ compensation reform continues to be such a focus of concern to the extent it is seen as a sticking point for our State’s budget. With the nation’s highest budgetary deficits and massive under-funding of state government pensions, it is our impression that tackling workers’ compensation reform in Illinois at this juncture is a bit like focusing on untangling a tiny knot in the dragon’s tail as he is about to breath fire over the entire state.


However, as recent reports appear to show only modest savings from the 2011 statutory changes to the IL Workers’ Compensation Act, we offer two very simple, yet effective changes which would almost immediately bring Illinois workers’ comp costs back into the average of most of our sister states.


First, we recommend a return to the pre-2005 schedule for PPD values. Veteran observers of our industry will recall 11 years ago when our General Assembly found it prudent to actually increase the PPDvalues for injuries by 7% across the board. This was viewed as nothing more than an effort to further line pockets of claimants and their attorneys in a State that already had generous PPD or “settlement” values.


For a simple and unquestioned IL WC reform--returning to the former PPD schedule will save 7% on awards and settlements immediately. We don’t feel anyone on either side of IL WC would beef about that change.


Second, rather than developing an needlessly complex system of geo-zip fee arrangements or worse, Medicare-linked reimbursements for medical care that will drive great doctors out of workers’ comp, why not simply average the two or three largest group provider fee schedules and set that as the standard workers’ comp medical fee payment schedule? Doing so will allow doctors to be paid the same, whether treatment is under workers’ comp or group health. Moreover, this method would eliminate the financial incentive for doctors to drive claims into workers’ compensation to collect higher rates, as we have certainly seen some medical providers do over the years.


Adjustments can be made every 3 years to keep the average current with any group adjustments. Doctors make money from Humana and Blue Cross and they would make the same treating workers’ comp claims too.


Making these two simple changes, which we expect should be fairly easy to pass with both the Governor’s and General Assembly’s approval, will save enough to make Illinois competitive again and also keep benefits adequate for our Illinois workers.


Where IL WC Reform Is Right Now in Springfield


Last week, the IL Senate's workers' compensation proposal received a new amendment. SB 198 (formerly SB 12) is essentially amendment 4 to SB 12 as reported on last week with two specific changes.


SB 198 adopts the Illinois State Chamber’s recommended move from the current IL WC medical fee charge system to an RBRVS or resource-based relative value scale effective September 1, 2017. This is expected to cut IL WC medical costs in the area of 30% more than steep cuts made in 2005-6 and 2011.


In addition, the new amendment requires the Workers' Compensation Commission to investigate all procedures, treatments, and services covered under law for ambulatory surgical treatment centers and accredited ambulatory surgical treatment facilities and establish fee schedule amounts for procedures, treatments, and services for which fee schedule amounts have not yet been established. These loopholes will close.


Governor Rauner’s mixed-up efforts to reform or cut costs in IL WC by


      Changing our “causation standard,”

      Redefining and possibly expanding the nutty “traveling employee” concept and

      Strengthening AMA guidelines in setting PPD or “permanency/impairment.”


are not part of this compromise. As we have reported repeatedly, Governor Rauner doesn’t need legislation to make the changes above. He can make such changes with his administrative/executive control of the IWCC and either doesn’t know or doesn’t care to do it.


If there are changes made as part of a “Grand Bargain,” it would appear medical cost cutting is likely the extent of what will be considered the 2017 Amendments to the IL Workers' Comp Act.


Then we hope IL workers’ comp reform would be off the table and our industry can go back to the normal challenges. We would love to see the Governor and General Assembly tackle the monster, multi-billion dollar battles to cut government budgets and bring runaway spending into control before raising taxes so high even more folks will be driven away from this State.


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



Synopsis: Thoughts on Jesse Jackson, Junior’s Workers’ Comp Claim.


Editor’s comment: Please note Jesse, Jr. is actually getting federal and not state WC benefits. He has been receiving them in and out of prison for years, it seems. This information is coming from his divorce proceedings. You may note his soon-to-be-ex-wife was a longtime Chicago alderwoman who didn’t actually reside in or anywhere near Chicago and almost never, ever attended a City Council hearing. In the one-party political system that we have in Chicago due to a lack of term limits, no one stood up to point out her constant disappearing act.


Due to the disclosures about Junior’s pending federal WC claim, there is a legislative proposal for a bill to end Junior’s benefits, in a fashion that probably will affect just him. He could lose about $100,000 a year in tax-free workers' compensation benefits if a bill introduced Wednesday by an Illinois Republican becomes law.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Downstate Taylorville introduced the measure. It is a looooong way from becoming law—Junior may continue to be paid until something changes.


Jackson was convicted in 2013 for using about $750,000 from his campaign donations for personal use, like buying a $60,000 Rolex® watch. He allegedly receives the WC benefits because he has bipolar disorder and depression, which were diagnosed in 2012, according to court documents. I would be depressed too if I had to go to federal prison! Hard to imagine how that condition might be work-related.


Rep. Davis' measure would reform workers' compensation eligibility for members of Congress who convert campaign funds for personal use or are convicted of any of 28 other crimes related to their public duties.


The bill also would require the House's chief administrative officer to submit an annual report listing past employees who receive workers' comp. Davis sits on the House Administration Committee, which would receive the report.


Doesn't it seem mildly insane that we have to pass a federal law to have someone cut off benefits that should never have been paid to start with? Shouldn't the federal administrator who approved the non-injury WC claim be fired? Shouldn't someone investigate how many federal WC claims are being paid without any actual injuries?


Why does work comp always seem to be such a smoking mess? We appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.



Synopsis: IL Arbs Moving Around.


Editor’s comment: As of July 1, 2017, Arbitrator Hegarty and Arbitrator Friedman will be switching dockets to ensure compliance with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission Act. 


Arbitrator Hegarty who is considered moderate/liberal due to her legal background and training will be moving to Zone 5 or Rockford/Waukegan/Woodstock. All cases formerly assigned to Arbitrator Friedman and new filings will now be assigned to Arbitrator Hegarty. 


Arbitrator Friedman who is considered moderate/conservative from his legal background will moving to Zone 6 or Wheaton/Geneva/Elgin and all cases formerly assigned to Arbitrator Hegarty and new filings will now be assigned to Arbitrator Friedman.


If a case had been tried or partially tried by either Arbitrator, that hearing officer will retain jurisdiction over the case. 


Please reply with any concerns.

Synopsis: Join Shawn R. Biery, J.D., MSSC for a nationally broadcast Webinar July 17th, 2017 3:00 PM to 4:15 PM ET

Editor’s comment:  Workers’ Compensation: Return to Work Issues & Strategies

Can't attend live? By registering, you will be able to view the course live, view a recording at any time for 12 months, or both. This webinar will provide an overview of strategies and tips for reintegrating injured workers to production. In addition, the course will also provide tools for effectively managing claimants’ expectations and implementing protocols for claim management.

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

·         Analyze options which can be utilized on a claim by claim basis to set targets for return to work

·         Understand avenues to develop relationships with key stakeholders to assist in management of claim issues with focus on rapid return to work

·         Set targets for accommodated and full duty return to work for injured workers

·         Determine more specific strategies for your industry to minimize lost time claims

·         Describe HIPAA compliance issues

Receive a 35% discount for being a friend of the firm by using the promo code: SPKR35

You can sign up to attend at:


Please contact Shawn at sbiery@keefe-law.com with any questions or to find out how to have one of the KCBA attorneys provide a presentation to your office!


Workers’ Compensation in Illinois is complicated . . . Do you know everything you need to know about the Illinois WC system? Attorney Jim Egan of Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates will begin with a review of the basics of Workers’ Compensation in Illinois, including benefits, the Workers’ Compensation Commission, and handling a claim of injury from the beginning to end. He will then analyze and discuss in-depth important topics such as Temporary Total/Partial Disability, Nature and Extent of Injury, Wage Loss Differential, Discovery, Liens and related claims against WC benefits in Illinois, Surveillance, Retaliatory Discharge and How to Handle WC Death Claims.


The final section of the day will include a number of essential factors to be considered when you are dealing with any workers’ compensation claim. You will receive helpful information on pushing your claim targets, using real time examples. Keeping in touch with your workers and how to drive claim closure are key, so these will also be discussed.


This is a not to be missed workshop for anybody who handles Workers’ Compensation claims in Illinois.


Registration Information:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Holiday Inn Express, 1000 Plummer Drive, Edwardsville, IL 62025

Early Bird - (For everybody) - Sign up before June 10 - $249.00

Member (For members of the Illinois Chamber & local chamber partners) - $299.00

Retail Price - $349.00