Quinn seems to back key workers' comp provision


SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to reform Illinois’ workers’ compensation system appears to include some form of a key provision wanted by Republicans and business interests.

Quinn’s plan, outlined Wednesday for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Manufacturers Association, would require that a worker would not receive benefits for an injury if it was not incurred on the job.

Businesses have called for a “causation" requirement in workers’ comp claims, meaning the workplace must be the primary contributing cause of a compensable claim.

It’s unclear whether Quinn’s proposal, outlined on a slide show, matches up with what Republicans and the state’s business interests want. Quinn could not point to a bill number or a legislative sponsor for his plan, so the exact language could be examined.

“This is law, and those words mean a lot,” said state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, who sponsored a workers' compensation reform proposal that failed in the Senate earlier this year.

Quinn, who said he wants a reform bill enacted before the legislature's May 31 adjournment date, would not call his provision “causation,” although the slide show included the requirement that any compensable accident arise out of and in the course of employment.

“You can call it whatever you want,” Quinn said. “You can call it success if we can get the job done.”

Workers’ compensation premiums cost businesses $3 billion annually. Quinn said his plan, which also includes cuts in Illinois’ medical fee schedule, enhances review of how care is utilized, reduces permanent disability payments, limits compensation for carpal tunnel syndrome and limits the wage differential – how long workers can receive benefits based on their pay before and after their injuries – would save businesses $500 million.

Business interests said the governor’s plan doesn’t go far enough on the issue of causation, but it has potential.

“I think that is their attempt to address the issue,” IRMA president David Vite said. “It doesn’t go to the place we need to be, but we appreciate their effort and would be willing to sit down and work with the governor’s team.”

McCarter’s bill included an explicit requirement that injuries result from the workplace. In a speech before the business groups, McCarter said it was “cause or nothing.”

“After being disrespected so badly with the (income) tax increase, we deserve this,” McCarter said.

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