SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Senate killed a bill late Thursday evening that would have dramatically overhauled the state’s workers’ compensation system – a system that all parties agree is rife with fraud and abuse. 

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Senate killed a bill late Thursday evening that would have dramatically overhauled the state’s workers’ compensation system – a system that all parties agree is rife with fraud and abuse.


“We should be embarrassed,” said sponsor Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon. “We talk about the budget, we talk about living within our means and we’ve got the expense of over $130 million in workers’ comp within our own house.”


McCarter’s legislation, Senate Bill 1349, would have reduced the medical fee schedule for workers’ compensation procedures by 30 percent, given employers the right to choose an employee’s doctors and course of treatment for the first 60 days, adopted American Medical Association guidelines for determining impairment and required that the workplace be the primary cause of the injury – a principle known as causation.


Causation was the sticking point for Senate Republicans and the business community.


“If causation is not part of it (reform), it’s likely it will not be strong enough to make a difference,” Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said.


Senate Democrats disagreed.


“I don’t want to pass a bill that will lead to more litigation, not less litigation – that’s not going to save anybody any money,” said Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.


Cullerton said McCarter’s bill might exclude workers with pre-existing conditions, such as old sports injuries, from filing legitimate claims.


The bill received 25 “yes” votes to 6 “no” votes, but 28 Democrats voted “present.” Thirty votes were required for passage.


“There was no surprise,” Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said of the vote. “I think the reason it was such a good bill was because nobody liked it. The unions didn’t like it, the trial lawyers didn’t like it, the doctors didn’t like it, so everybody shared in the pain.”


Carlinville Republican Sen. Sam McCann said any Democratic bill will have to address causation to get his vote.


“I’m not saying that myself or anyone else here is so rigid that we won’t participate – we want to be at the table, we want to participate, we want to listen, we want to contribute, we want to do what it takes to come to meaningful reform,” McCann said.


Cullerton said Democrats are planning to introduce a workers’ compensation reform bill.


 


Andy Brownfield can be reached at (217) 782-3095.