Med-Mal, Workers’ Comp Left on Table as Illinois Lawmakers Finally Adjourn

August 2, 2004

Although the Illinois Legislature just wrapped up the longest overtime in state history, several bills critical to the insurance industry fell by the wayside due to reported ongoing political wrangling and the overshadowing state budget.

“Lawmakers couldn’t get it together on reform bills addressing medical malpractice and workers’ compensation,” said Laura Kotelman, PCI regional manager and senior counsel. “These issues will undoubtedly resurface in the fall veto session in November.”

According to PCI, S.B. 2239, the medical malpractice reform bill, was sabotaged by disagreement between trial lawyers, doctors and hospitals, who could not agree on several crucial elements, including protection of doctors’ personal assets, changes to bad-faith requirements, and a provision preventing plaintiffs from naming hospitals in malpractice lawsuits filed against doctors. They were able to reach an agreement on tighter restrictions on doctors who can serve as expert witnesses and those who can certify a case has merit

H.B. 805, a workers’ comp reform package agreed to by both business and labor, faltered when business group support began to splinter and the City of Chicago opposed the bill. Insurer interests, concerned that the promised cost savings would actually materialize, maintained a neutral position, and in fact were not allowed at the table to explain the effect of any proposals to the business community, according to Kotelman.

However, several insurance-related bills from the session were signed into law, and others are awaiting the governor’s signature. If he takes no action in 60 days, the bills are automatically enacted.

Signed bills include:

· S.B. 2491, a PCI initiative that allows for electronic notification of agents, brokers, mortgagees, lien holders and premium finance companies; effective Jan. 1, 2005.

· H.B. 4712, which amends the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act to specifically deal with the use of Social Security numbers on insurance or other identification cards, and transmitting these numbers over the Internet unless by secure connection or encryption.

· S.B. 2238, an uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) drivers bill that amends current law by making UIM the gap coverage used for fulfilling the entire amount to which the injured driver is entitled, less what was actually recovered from the at-fault driver. The bill also includes industry amendments clarifying how customers choose the amount of UIM coverage.

· S.B. 2122, which requires automobile registration applications to include proof of liability insurance, effective Jan. 1, 2005.

Bills awaiting the governor’s action include:

· S.B. 3077, which prohibits lenders from requiring borrowers to provide hazard insurance coverage on property to exceed the replacement value of the improvements on the real property.

· S.B. 2207, which reduces the Industrial Commission Operations Fund surcharge from 1.5 percent to 1.01 percent of direct written premium, and from .045 percent to .0075 percent of annual wages paid for self-insureds.

· H.B. 393, on risk retention groups (RRGs), which exempts nonprofit risk organizations from the RRG tax on casualty, fidelity, surety, fire and marine insurance. The bill was brought by a PCI member.

· S.B. 2560, which provides that surplus line insurance may be bought from unauthorized insurers or domestic surplus line insurers as defined.

· H.B. 3981, the Commonsense Consumption Act, which prohibits legal action against food sellers for damages or injunctive relief based on a claim of injury resulting from a person’s weight gain, obesity, or any related health condition.

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