Attorney criticizes workers' compensation reform bills, calls them 'fake'
Attorney Eugene Keefe of Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates LLC has some criticism of recent Illinois workers' compensation reform bill efforts by state legislators.
One of them involves an effort that Keefe described as the allocation of $10 million out of the state workers' compensation committee’s annual budget that would create a small mutual insurance carrier to compete with existing private insurers. Keefe said he does not feel that would have been effective.
“I truly doubt this idea would have ever actually been implemented, even if the Illinois General Assembly had passed it,” Keefe said in an editorial statement. “I think it would have gone to the same junk heap the Illinois State Workers' Compensation Oversight Panel for the state worker’s committee is on—they spent hours and hours debating the makeup of that panel and what it would do, and they never met, not even once. It all sounded good when it got passed, but it fizzled in execution while the state still shovels millions to our Illinois government workers, who then support and vote for the politicians shoveling them money.”
Keefe said the bill failed to receive the 71 votes it needed, and was not made into law, which he called a “victory” for advocates of real workers' compensation reform, partially because, he said, he does not generally trust the government to pay back loans, which was a component of the deal.
“Financial repayment in our state government is usually a wish and a prayer,” Keefe said.
Another bill on Keefe’s list is House Bill 2525, which he said would involve price controls on workers' compensation insurance policies within the state.
Citing pushback from industry association representatives, Keefe said the veto of the bill was a fortunate thing for the state.
Criticizing the two bills, Keefe said they would hinder actual workers' compensation reform in Illinois.
“(The two bills) were designed to and did deflect any real workers' compensation legislative change or reform in this state,” Keefe said. “This important debate went down an endless sidetrack to nowhere with consideration of these two ‘fake’ bills.”
Keefe said there is actually a lot to like about the state’s workers' compensation system, but suggested some bad decisions impact workers and others negatively.
“We have lots of very solid arbitrators and commissioners who are dedicated to bringing this state back to the middle of the U.S. in terms of workers' compensation costs and premiums. We also feel the message has made it to the Illinois Appellate Court, Workers' Compensation Division that is taking a more traditional role in overseeing the Illinois workers' compensation system… the impact of these new and improved hearing officers, judges and justice won’t happen in a day or three. It will be a couple of years for their rulings and settlements to show improvement for our workers' compensation risk, business, claims and insurance community. The hearing officers also want truly injured workers to be properly taken care of and protected under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act and Rules.”