Workers' comp investigation is only a start

April 29, 2014 

Well, five workers' comp claims apparently are enough for Illinois. The state Department of Corrections is investigating possible misconduct involving the fifth claim filed by prison guard Lance Fancher. That's a vast improvement over years of state officials not even raising an eyebrow over questionable claims.

This case calls out for further review. Doctors at two hospitals said Fancher was not injured when he helped break up a fight among inmates, yet his disability claim lists injuries to: "Head. Neck. Back. Right shoulder. Right knee. Body as a whole." He has been off since October drawing 100 percent of his salary.

Is everyone talking about the same guy? (And why doesn't the state have him filing papers or doing something rather than drawing a paycheck for sitting at home?)

While the state is now more vigilant about abuse of the law, the law itself remains unfinished business. Although Fancher claims work-related injuries, state law still doesn't require that causation standard to receive a workers' comp award. That's why the revised law, although an improvement, falls far short of expectations.

The changes were supposed to result in savings for employers of $500 million to $750 million annually, but the Illinois Association of County Board Members said the savings since the law's enactment have been estimated at $300 million -- $700 million to $1.2 billion short of expectations.

Businesses continue to bear the burden. Illinois has the fourth highest workers' comp premiums out of 51 jurisdictions, according to a 2012 survey done by the Oregon Department of Commerce and Business Services.

Investigators are working on the Fancher case; meanwhile Illinois lawmakers need to finish their work on workers' comp.

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