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Pork, Sausage, & WC Legislation

A legislative update for our clients and Illinois employers and insurers from Partner G. Steven Murdock:

There is a well-known axiom that says, “Those with a taste for the law and sausage should not ask how either one is made.” As Inman & Fitzgibbons continues to monitor the activities of the General Assembly for any amendments to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, we are often reminded of this statement and can truly appreciate the analogy.

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Just this week on May 6, 2013, legislation was introduced in Springfield to amend the Act, and it has drawn the attention of our firm, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois business community. HB 3390 itself is simply a bill to amend the Illinois Condominium Property Act, and on its face has absolutely nothing to do with the Illinois Workers Compensation Act. It is Senate Amendment 1 to that House Bill, however, that tacks on proposed changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

So, you ask, how does an amendment to a bill addressing the right of condominium associations to install solar panels and wind turbines have any impact on workers’ compensation?  This is precisely how some laws are made, validating the analogy to watching what goes into that sausage we enjoy on our pizzas.

Senate Amendment 1 to HB 3390 has no impact on the substance of HB 3390, but has everything to do with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  Some of the proposed amendments to the Act are actually neutral or favorable for business, including an amendment to Section 8(e)(10) to confirm that the shoulder is considered part of the arm, not the whole person, in determining permanent partial disability.  There are, however, certain provisions of the Senate Amendment that are intended to reverse some of the positive changes that occurred in 2011.

Perhaps the most noticeable amendment would be to Section 8.1b, which is the provision requiring the use of AMA ratings in determining permanent partial disability. The proposed amendment to this section is essentially to require that the IWCC consider the AMA rating with equal weight as it does with other factors, including the petitioner’s line of employment, age, etc. As Section 8.1b currently stands, the AMA rating is to be given greater weight than any of the other factors.

Two other amendments to the Act proposed in Senate Amendment 1 that would have a detrimental impact on employers include proposed amendments to Sections 19(k) (penalties provision) and 19(n) (interest accrual on review) of the Act. The amendment to Section 19(k) would be to allow for the payment of these penalties for unreasonable or vexatious delay in the authorization of medical treatment, not simply for the unreasonable or vexatious delay in the payment of compensation and medical benefits incurred.

The amendment to Section 19(n) sets the minimum interest to be accrued on an award for benefits while a case is pending on Review and appeal at 3% plus the average quoted prime rate on short-term commercial loans in effect on the day of the Arbitration Decision. The current interest rate is simply the quoted prime rate on the day of the Decision.  Both of these proposed amendments mean only additional costs to employers.

HB 3390 Senate Amendment 1 has made it out of one Senate committee, and “negotiations” continue with the proposed language amending the Workers’ Compensation Act.  Inman & Fitzgibbons continues to remain vigilant in its efforts to protect our clients’ interests before the IWCC as well as in the state legislature, and we will continue to keep you apprised of any efforts by our state legislators to increase employers’ costs of Worker’s Compensation in Illinois. Our office is a member of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and its Workers Compensation Committee, which is actively involved in monitoring legislation such as this. If you have any questions regarding this proposed legislation, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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