6-27-16; Al Preibis RIP; Per Gov Rauner, IL Approaches Gov't Shutdown with WC Reforms Still on the Table; WCRI Confirms Drug Monitoring Works Per Tracy Swenson and...

Synopsis: God Bless and Keep the memory of Arbitrator/Commissioner Al Preibis, May He Rest in Peace.


Editor’s comment: The IL WC community is saddened to hear of the passing of Arbitrator/Commissioner Al Preibis. Albert Preibis was a south side Chicago Lithuanian who worked hard and was a lifetime Democrat. He was widely known to be a liberal and fought hard for the interests of the working man. For a time, Al was a Claimant attorney during one of the politically enforced hiatuses from being an Arbitrator and never forgot being nickeled-and-dimed by some of the great defense lawyers of the time, like Arthur Kane and Marc Braun. One of the ways to get on Arbitrator Preibis’ bad side was to try to chisel the other side over a couple of bucks. To do so would risk his wrath! If he thought a claim was worth $15K and you offered $10K, he was happy to award $25K to show you he hated defense chiselers.


On the other side, if he thought it was worth $15K and you offered $15K, he would quickly award $10K to make sure the other side knew he was serious about being fair. Al was considerate about his job and being predictable—we consider this one of the strongest things any Arbitrator/Hearing Member in any state can do. Al told you what he was going to do and if you didn’t listen carefully, that is what he did.


On the other hand, as liberal as Al Preibis might be about a compensable claim, he was very tough on liars and folks that couldn’t remember what happened to them when they were traumatically injured. Al Preibis sometimes demanded opening arguments and your editor welcomed the challenge to eagerly tell him the dispute that was felt to be bona fide and worthy of extra interest. Al would initially give the defense side the “evil eye” but he listened carefully and ruled very impartially. We wish all current Arbitrators could be as brutally impartial as Al Preibis could be.


He was a kind, intelligent and fair man and will be forever missed. We wish we could provide you a picture of this great hearing officer but there aren’t any on the worldwide web. He just passed away at the age of 93. He was known as “Big Al, the Petitioner’s Pal” but don’t overdo the concept—Al was brutally honest and fair to anyone who appeared before him.


Arbitrator/Commissioner Al Preibis was a veteran of World War II. Funeral services are private. Preibis is survived by his wife, Gloria; son, Glenn; daughter, Gloria Sampson; and sister M. "Polly" Anton. Your editor will forever miss him and his great sense of humor and judicial demeanor.


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Synopsis: Governor Rauner: State Government Nears Shutdown Over Illinois State Budget Impasse. IL Workers’ Comp Reforms Remain in the Mix.


Editor’s comment: This Friday, July 1, 2016 may remain the action date. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is accusing Democrats of procrastinating on a budget compromise which Governor Rauner hopes will include workers' compensation reform, just days before the state enters a second fiscal year with no spending plan.


Per Gov. Bruce Rauner “The government is on the verge of shutdown, and our schools are on the verge of not opening,” said Rauner. The Illinois House was scheduled to meet Wednesday, but Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan canceled the session for a third straight week. He said bipartisan working groups of legislators will meet three times this week in an attempt to craft a budget plan.


“Gov. Rauner has been supportive of these groups’ efforts, and I agree with his recent comments that until there is a compromise budget, lawmakers should not be brought back to Springfield,” Madigan said. When lawmakers failed to enact a budget before adjourning at the end of May, Madigan vowed the House would remain in continuous session and return to Springfield on each Wednesday in June, but he has canceled all three Wednesday sessions this month.


Rauner has asked legislators to at least approve a full-year education budget that would allow schools to open this fall, and a stopgap budget to fund higher education, human services and public safety through the end of this year. “I believe what’s being done is using the “working groups” as an excuse not to do anything, to delay and create a crisis,” Gatehouse quoted Rauner as saying.


The historically long impasse, which stretches to fiscal 2015, was triggered by the Republican Governor’s reasonable demand that our goofy legislature reform workers’ compensation and government pensions, and freeze property taxes.



Synopsis: WCRI Stat Specialists Note Drug Monitoring Programs Reduce Opioid Prescribing. Analysis by Tracy Swenson, J.D.

Editor’s comment: In a recently published report, it was confirmed prescription-drug monitoring programs may have played a role in reducing the average amount of opioids prescribed to injured workers from 2011 to 2014, according to the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute.

They report the biggest drop in opioid prescribing was seen in Michigan, which openly allows pharmacists and prescribers and also workers’ comp payers to access the prescription-monitoring database which appears to be a strong tool in identifying excessive dispensation of prescription meds. When looking at changes from the previous 2010/2012 study period, Michigan saw the largest drop in average opioids per claim, with a 31% drop. Oklahoma had the second greatest decrease, at 29%, followed by Massachusetts, with 24%. Michigan has allowed payer access to the PDMP since 2002, but increased awareness of the opioid crisis may have prompted payers to increase their use of the database over the most recent study period, WCRI said.

WCRI reports decreased opioid prescribing found in the 2012-2014 study period follows a trend of rapidly increasing opioid use which began in the 1990s. Since other studies also have found a decrease in opioid utilization in recent years, it may signal a turning point because of numerous changes made at the federal, state and organization levels in recent years to combat opioid overuse and abuse.

The WCRI study titled “Interstate Variations in Use of Opioids” looks at non-surgical workers’ comp claims with more than seven days of lost time. The new study covers injury dates from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2012, with prescriptions filled through March 31, 2014, for an average of 24 months of experience on claims. WCRI calls this study period "2012/2014" and compares it to a similarly defined "2010/2012" period.

While 49 states have prescription-drug monitoring programs, they differ in their requirements for using the databases that keep track of patients’ opioid prescription history. The PDMPs are intended for use by pharmacists and prescribers to look for patterns of possible abuse, such as doctor shopping to obtain a large number of prescriptions.  One example in the article confirmed Oklahoma strengthened its PDMP during the recent study period by requiring real-time reporting of opioid prescribing starting in January 2012, WCRI noted.  

The WCRI study also found regional differences in opioid prescribing patterns. One in 15 claimants receiving opioids also were prescribed benzodiazepines — considered a dangerous combination — in four states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin. But in Texas, fewer than 1% of claimants receiving opioids were prescribed benzodiazepines.

As the providers continue to prescribe medications and with the increase in compound medications, monitoring programs and strong access for all providers seems to be the most reasonable approach to maintain safety for those receiving the medications so there seems to be no downside for the claimants.  

The WCRI study is available for purchase here.

This article was edited by Tracy Swenson, J.D. who has the unique perspective of being a great WC claims adjuster prior to starting her law career here at KCBA. Tracy is looking for current adjusters who aren’t afraid to hire women lawyers to fight or rapidly resolve tough claims. She can be reached for any questions at TSwenson@keefe-law.com.


Synopsis: Need WC Training? Learn from the KCB&A Experts about New WC Rules and Decisions from 2015 and Beyond                                    .

Editor’s comment: In our view, training and expertise in new work comp developments is critically important for you to keep ahead of your competition in claims and risk management. We have culled out the important decisions and changes to law for the last year to add to our 2016-17 IL WC Law Textbook. We can present the most important of them for you and your adjusting/risk management staff in a complimentary onsite lunch and learn at your office. We can also “webinar” your remote workers who want to keep pace with the office staff. Let us know if you are interested in a lunch hour presentation that we assure you will be informative and entertaining.

Here is the  outline created by John P. Campbell, J.D. and Nathan Bernard, J.D. for your consideration:

When is a Physical Problem Repetitive Trauma versus Repetitive Working?

Question: How Exactly Do You Tackle an IL WC Fraud Claim? IL Courts Play the Laurel and Hardy Game of “Who’s on First?”

IL WC Wage Differential Exposure Expanding based on Recent Appellate Court Ruling.

Defense/Respondent Contact with Treating Doctors Met with Shocking Penalty and Sanction from Circuit Court Judge.

Traveling Employee Expansion When Handling Work Equipment While at Home.

Medicare Set-Aside Process as SMART Act is Implemented.

Comparing How Impairment Ratings are Considered at the IWCC.

We can also do a half-day or whole day seminar to teach all the nuances of IL WC. Let us know is you have interest—all you have to do is send a reply.