To the editor:
When workers are injured on the job through no fault of their own, a system must be in place to ensure that the injured person does not find themselves in a position where they are unable to support themselves or their family. In order to provide this protection to injured employees, businesses purchase insurance which covers medical and other costs when it is decided that an employee has suffered a work-related injury. Every legislator in the state agrees that this system should not cover injuries if they are not work-related or if the injured person is at fault.
As the chairman of the Labor and Commerce committee, I held hearings on the status of the workers’ compensation system in Illinois. Also, I chaired a committee of the entire Illinois House of Representatives to discuss the system and to discuss ways to lower insurance costs for businesses while maintaining protection for workers who deserve compensation for their work-related injuries. During the hearing, we heard from injured workers, business leaders and workers’ compensation experts from across the country in order to analyze the systems in other states and compare them to our own. What we found is that in some states injured workers are unable to receive the compensation they deserve, even though they are not at fault for their injuries. The result of these systems is potentially lower insurance costs for employers, but a much worse lifestyle for injured workers and their families and an increased reliance on public aid.
Gov. Rauner and many Republicans believe that this is the kind of system that we need in Illinois. The plan they have put forward would join the race to the bottom that other states have started. Under their plan, businesses would save money on the backs of hard-working Illinoisans who have been harmed on the job. I believe this anti-worker system is wrong, and I refuse to participate in the governor’s race to the bottom at the expense of Illinois families.
The reforms that I support would require insurance companies to share the costs of workers’ compensation with businesses. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission issued a report this year that says the Illinois workers’ compensation reforms passed in 2011 have created significant savings for insurance companies; however the savings have not been passed on to businesses. In fact, the Rauner appointed commission has indicated a 19 percent reduction in costs since the 2011 reforms. Why haven’t employers seen a corresponding reduction in their insurance rates?
Illinois should join 26 other states and implement a system that would require prior review and preapproval of insurance premiums charged to businesses. In addition, we have an obligation to crack down on fraud in the system. Employers and employees in Illinois deserve a system that provides justice for all parties involved. I support a fair system that allows for a strong economy and a strong Illinois.
Chairman of the Labor and Commerce Committee