No Need to Reform Workers’ Compensation When Insurers Stack the Deck (and Profits)

When the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act was amended in 2011, workers’ rights were slashed, and doctors and hospitals were told to take a pay cut.  The only people who walked away happy were the insurance companies.  Five years later, Gov. Bruce Rauner is seeking to further reduce workers’ rights and benefits.

The Illinois Policy Institute, which is aligned with Rauner, has flooded the media with propaganda seeking to distract Illinois employers from the real reason their premiums are rising:  insurers are refusing to pass on their savings to employers.
The National Council on Compensation Insurance (“NCCI”), an industry-funded clearinghouse, reports that workers’ compensation indemnity payments in 2015 were down nearly $39 million from 2014 and $95 million since 2012 – an 11.6% decrease in just three years.  In addition, the 2011 amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act caused a 30% reduction in medical and hospital fees.  As a result, NCCI recommended that Illinois insurers reduce their workers’ compensation premiums by 12.9%.  This would have been the third largest premium reduction in the United States and greater than the combined premium reductions in all of our neighboring states.
Benefits have been dropping since 2012, yet the insurance companies have refused to reduce their premiums in compliance with NCCI’s advisory rate.  It is no surprise that Illinois employers are outraged that insurance premiums continue to rise.  But reducing benefits has not solved the problem.  The solution lies in greater scrutiny of the insurance industry, which has been pocketing the savings from benefit reductions instead of passing those savings along to their policyholders.
Furthermore, about 150,000 work related injuries occurred in Illinois, according to the United States Department Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent survey of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in Illinois. However, in 2015 just over 40,000 work injury cases were filed under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act – less than 30% of injured workers file workers’ compensation claims. In other words, out of 10 injured workers, only 3 filed a claim.
Job security, employer-funded pensions, health insurance and other social safety nets are being weakened.  The call for further workers’ compensation “reform” is part of a systematic effort to reduce the rights of working men and women and give more power to the insurance industry.