If you work in Illinois, you're likely financially protected from workplace injuries and illnesses through your employer's workers compensation insurance policy. Workers comp can help cover a number of expenses you may incur as a result of a workplace injury and may even help protect your job if you work for an employer that is not obligated to hold your job during your medical leave.
However, the Illinois legislature is currently battling against some proposed reforms that could significantly change the way workers comp is structured, potentially affecting the amount of benefits you'll be able to receive. Read on to learn more about these proposed changes, as well as how they may affect you if you suffer an on-the-job injury.
What does workers compensation already cover?
Each state has its own workers compensation laws, rules, and regulations. Some states permit employers to select their own workers comp coverage or don't require coverage to be carried at all, while other states have formed an exchange through which all employers must choose from a pre-selected group of insurance providers or workers comp plans.
If your employer declines workers comp coverage, they could be vulnerable to personal injury lawsuits (with much higher potential damages than paid under workers comp). As a result, most U.S. employees find themselves covered by some sort of workers comp plan.
Workers comp coverage is designed to help minimize any expenses incurred as a result of an employee's workplace injury. Workers comp payments may cover medical treatment, rehab or physical therapy, lost wages (usually capped at a certain percentage of pre-injury pay), prescription costs, and sometimes even psychological treatment.
Under current law, your injury should qualify for workers comp coverage if it occurred at work or under the direction of your employer. For example, if your employer requested that you drive to another job site and you were struck by another driver on your way there, any medical costs or lost wages associated with this accident may be paid by your employer's workers comp plan, even if the other driver's insurance company covers some of the costs.
What changes may be coming to Illinois workers compensation laws?
Illinois has traditionally been a state with one of the highest rates of employees receiving workers comp, as well as one of the most generous states with regard to benefit amounts.
In an attempt to improve the workers comp system (from the business point of view), the governor has proposed a number of sweeping changes to the way benefits are determined and allocated. Although there is some legislative resistance to these proposals on the grounds that they may make it harder for middle-class workers to receive workers comp benefits, it's possible that these changes could soon be codified into Illinois law.
Some of the changes that may be coming to the workers compensation system include:
1. More stringent proof requirements that the injury took place at work or at the direction of your employer
Although it is fairly easy to prove certain injuries occurred at the workplace, others (particularly chronic or long-term conditions) may be more difficult. Changes in the standard of proof needed to show you're entitled to workers compensation could succeed in keeping many undeserving recipients off the rolls, preventing fraud. However, these changes could also delay the award of funds for those who are entitled to receive them.
2. Lower payments to medical providers
Like Medicaid and other insurance programs governed by state regulations, workers comp insurance has caps on the amount it will cover when it comes to certain procedures. Reducing these amounts could make it harder for you to find a physician who will accept your workers comp insurance if you don't have other primary insurance.
3. The creation of an ombudsman program
Fighting the workers compensation system can seem overwhelming at times. Should the above proposals come to pass, the governor also plans to create an ombudsman program that will help coordinate personal, individual assistance to workers who have been injured on the job.
It's in your best interest to consult resources like The Law Offices of Gregg Durlofsky to know what is needed in order to ensure you get the coverage you need when injured. They can help you navigate these and other coming changes so the process is as quick and painless as possible.