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Rauner's Worker's Comp Argument Ignores Facts

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The following letter to the editor by ITLA President Christopher T. Hurley appeared in Crain's Chicago Business on December 5, 2016.

Gov. Bruce Rauner disingenuously claims that he’d like a balanced approach to improving workers’ compensation (“Bruce Rauner: My case for workers’ comp reform”), but demands that workers, especially those nearing retirement age, bear the financial brunt of his proposed changes.

In truth, Illinoisans already forfeited longstanding rights as part of the 2011 changes to Illinois workers comp’ laws – the same legislation that prompted a steep jump in insurance companies’ profits without a concurrent fall in the cost to employers, due to the state’s lax regulation of workers’ comp insurers.

The governor’s effort to cut the number of injured workers eligible to receive benefits would only shift the price of workplace injury to taxpayers. Workers are consumers and business customers, too. Reducing their economic wherewithal and forcing them to seek charity medical care only ensures that the rest of us will collectively absorb the costs that should instead be covered by a robust workers’ comp system.

The governor has said Illinois should emulate Indiana. But he ignores the fact that wages are a primary driver behind an employer’s workers’ comp expenses – and that Illinoisans earn more than Hoosiers (something most of us view as a positive). He also glosses over the morally repugnant discrepancy in how much less Indiana values serious injuries. As Crain’s recently reported, a lost thumb is worth $108,584 under Illinois law while Indiana offers less than half that amount.

The first step towards fixing our state’s economy is for the governor to rectify his ongoing failure to enact a budget – a feat accomplished by all of his predecessors, Republicans and Democrats. Thereafter, the reform agenda he should be focusing on is safer workplaces and stricter oversight of workers’ comp insurers, not further eroding injured workers’ rights.

Christopher T. Hurley

President, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association

 

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