Workers comp reform work isn't finished

August 20, 2013 

Gov. Pat Quinn is crowing about the latest recommended drop in workers' comp insurance rates --

down 4.5 percent on average statewide for 2014, and down a cumulative 13.2 percent since the workers' comp reforms of 2011.

Quinn boasts that his signing the reforms into law is saving businesses hundred of millions of dollars and "keeping the system honest for our workers."

But if he's honest, he will admit that the reforms were all just half-measures. Illinois still has some of the highest premiums in the nation. Douglas Oberhelman, the chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, complained last year that workers' comp costs at a heavy equipment factory would be five times less in neighboring Indiana than in Illinois.

If Illinois hopes to level the playing field, lawmakers need to raise the causation standard, something they were too timid to do in 2011.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office represents the taxpayers' interest in state employees' cases, said in 2011 that a higher causation standard is crucial to being able to defend against claims. "Because the causation standard is fairly low, the work accident doesn't need to be the sole cause, or even a primary cause of the employee's injury," Madigan said at the time. "To say we've reformed the workers' comp system is a gross overstatement."

Illinois has made a good start in reforming workers' comp, but it's only a start.

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