Separating fact, scare tactics

Some Democratic lawmakers are tugging at the public’s heartstrings to try to block needed workers’ comp reforms in Illinois. They can’t logically argue the changes that Gov. Bruce Rauner is proposing, so they’re going with emotion.

They had several workers who suffered on-the-job injuries testify at a hearing this week. “They all worked hard, they sacrificed, they played by the rules,” state Rep. Jay Hoffman said. “They had no desire to interact with the workers’ compensation system, yet they were forced to do so.”

Time out. Rauner isn’t saying that workers injured on the job should be denied benefits. Injured workers would still be compensated if his reforms passed.

The problem he’s trying to address is that in Illinois, a lot of people get compensated for injuries not related to their job.

Maybe those people who testified at the hearing didn’t want to interact with the workers’ comp system, but a slew of workers do. Remember our articles about the millions of dollars paid out to Menard prison guards and other workers for questionable injuries?

In Illinois, workers don’t have to prove that their job caused their injuries. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office handles workers’ comp cases, has previously said that it is a “gross overstatement” to say that lawmakers reformed the workers’ comp system a few years ago: “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.”

This is a main reason why Illinois’ workers’ comp premiums remain among the highest in the nation, and why real reform means raising the causation standard.