More Changes May Be Coming to Illinois Workers’ Compensation

The Illinois Workers' Compensation system has undergone significant reforms in the past year. These included a decrease in payments made to healthcare providers who treat injured workers, the establishment of preferred provider programs and the pilot of a collective bargaining program for workers' compensation benefits. The state legislature is now debating two bills that may further change the benefits injured workers in Illinois are eligible to receive.

Illinois House Workers' Compensation Bill

Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) recently introduced H.B. 6145 in the Illinois House, which amends the Workers' Compensation Act. If passed, the bill would impact the eligibility of injured employees who have received benefits for prior injuries. The bill would require previous partial disability benefits to be subtracted from the amount awarded for a subsequent injury, as long as the subsequent injury impacts the same area of the body as the earlier injury.

In other words, the bill would decrease the benefits available to workers who sustain repeated injuries in the same portion of the body. The bill also specifies that shoulder and arm injuries should be considered the same portion of the body for purposes of computing benefits. Moreover, hip injuries are to be considered injuries to the leg. Additionally, the bill caps cumulative awards for partial disability benefits at 500 weeks.

Illinois Senate Workers' Compensation Bill

The bill in the Illinois Senate also attempts to limit benefits to injured workers. Sen. Kyle McCarther (R-Lebanon) sponsored S.B. 2521, which seeks to deny benefits for idiopathic injuries. The bill specifies that the cause of an injury needs to be "established to a reasonable degree of medical certainty (and) based on objective relevant medical findings." Furthermore, the bill also aims to prevent workers from opting out of the preferred provider programs established by last year's reforms.

Both bills have been assigned to committees for further action. With ongoing changes to the Illinois workers' compensation system focused on limiting the benefits available to injured workers, the advice of an experienced workers' compensation attorney can be especially valuable. An attorney can advocate on behalf of injured workers to help ensure they receive the compensation to which they are entitled.