Metro-East News

Illinois House reviewing workers’ compensation rules

The Illinois House today is reviewing rules covering the compensation paid to workers injured on the job.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says the system needs reforms in order to attract businesses and job-creators to Illinois.

But House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, is warning that changes to the system could hurt workers and their families.

The House was scheduled to hold a “committee of the whole” meeting at noon to debate the issue.

Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, is serving as chairman for the hearing. He, like Madigan, is warning about potential harm to workers.

“Workers’ compensation is a system that protects working men and women and shields businesses from expensive lawsuits,” Hoffman said. “Before we move forward with proposals to change the compensation that workers receive after an injury on the job, we have to consider the impact on the financial security of lower income and middle-class families whose livelihoods are affected. Without an adequate compensation system for injured workers, families throughout Illinois will suffer and taxpayers will end up paying the bill.”

In 2011, the state legislature approved changes that were designed to lower workers compensation costs for businesses. Hoffman said the changes resulted in a 24 percent reduction in workers’ compensation insurance rates for businesses.

Hoffman said any changes to the system should reflect a balance between workers’ protections and the ability of Illinois businesses to compete with other states.

“I understand and support changes that will reduce the burden on businesses and allow them to be competitive, but for workers who are injured, to suddenly be without a job and an income is financially devastating,” Hoffman said.

Madigan said: “Numbers on paper alone can’t tell the full story of men and women who are hurt at work through no fault of their own and whose families must cope with lost wages and massive medical bills. These workers and their families are the reason we have an injured workers’ compensation system, and they deserve to have their voices heard.”

Rauner’s office says Illinois has the seventh-highest workers’ compensation costs in the nation.

Terry L. Denison, chairman of the Illinois Economic Development Association, said the state’s workers’ compensation costs are uncompetitive.

“Because of this, Illinois is losing new business opportunities, losing existing companies and losing existing jobs,” Denison said.

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 618-239-2475. Follow him on Twitter: @B_Brueggemann.

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