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Illinois should focus on improving worker safety, not on reducing benefits

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2015 | Workers' Compensation

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Recent reforms to Illinois workers’ compensation law have changed the rules of the game for many injured employees. Some people are concerned that these reforms are aimed at reducing benefits rather than increasing workplace safety. As legislators consider further changes, workers should be aware of their rights and their employers’ responsibilities.

Sweeping reforms in 2011

On June 28, 2011, a bill known as HB 1698 became law in Illinois. This law has been in effect since the beginning of September 2011. Every worker compensation lawyer in Woodstock knows that HB 1698 was forged out of complex negotiations and disagreements. At one point, some of the parties involved in the debate even suggested abolishing the entire Illinois workers’ compensation system and starting again from scratch. The current reforms are a compromise between employee advocates and business advocates, attempting to cut costs wherever possible.

Significant effects of the 2011 reforms

The 2011 reforms had a number of serious effects on workers, as every worker compensation lawyer in Woodstock is aware. Some of the most important highlights are the following:

  • Permanent partial disability payments are now limited to age 67 (or, if later, five years after the accident) instead of lifelong coverage.
  • Employers may now set up a network of preferred medical providers and restrict workers to using these providers rather than doctors of their own choice.
  • Medical fee schedules are reduced across the board by 30 percent.
  • All Illinois workers’ compensation arbitrators have been replaced.

The first three of these reforms are especially important for injured employees who seek financial compensation after a disabling accident.

Better safety procedures are a smart financial strategy

Some workers and advocates say that Illinois workers’ compensation reforms should aim to save money by making employees safer in the workplace. Cutting benefits is only a band-aid on an existing problem. Better safety training and equipment is an investment in the long-term future of Illinois industry.

Safety improvements make a difference

Statistics provided by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration show that striving for workplace safety can save significant amounts of time and money. According to OSHA, fatalities in the workplace have decreased by almost two-thirds since federal workplace safety advocacy began in 1970. Annual work-related illnesses and injuries have dropped from 10.9 per 100 employees to 3.4 per 100 employees in the past four decades.

Living with a job-related injury can be difficult. Disabled workers should consider speaking with a worker compensation lawyer in Woodstock today.