AIA: Proposed Ill. Workers’ Comp Reforms a Start

February 3, 2005

The American Insurance Association (AIA) on Thursday termed proposed reforms by the governor to Illinois’ troubled workers’ compensation system a “good beginning,” but added that more work remains in order to truly fix the system.

“We are encouraged by the governor’s call for workers’ compensation reform and look forward to working with him to that end,” said Steve Schneider, AIA vice president, Midwest Region. “His proposal to address ‘balance billing’ is a good beginning; however, more can – and should – be done to help fix the system and further protect injured workers. This would put Illinois’ workers’ compensation system on par with other, lower-cost, states.”

In his State-of-the-State address Thursday, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) made workers’ comp reform one of his priority goals this year. The governor is seeking to eliminate “balance billing,” under which injured workers are unfairly dunned by medical providers and their collection agencies. Illinois is one of only a handful of states that continue to permit this practice.

“There are numerous other ways to lower costs in the workers’ compensation system, while protecting injured workers and helping them get back to work sooner,” added Schneider. “We hope the governor will consider some of these other options.”

Additional reforms recommended by the AIA include:

• Implementing American Medical Association (AMA) impairment guidelines to reduce subjectivity in making injury determinations. AMA guidelines are used in 38 states.
• Using a Medicare-based fee schedule to make medical costs more stable and predictable.
• Allowing for “utilization review” which standardizes medical treatment and curbs unnecessary, costly medical treatments to help get the injured worker back on the job sooner and healthier.

“AIA is seeking to improve the workers’ compensation system with fair, objective criteria to evaluate injuries, and a more predictable fee schedule to make payments. Under this kind of system, injured workers would be fully compensated while benefiting from a more efficient and reasonable structure,” said Schneider.

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