GOP compromise plan gets qualified OK from workers' comp law firm
A Chicago law firm sees pluses, minuses and some in-betweens in the workers' compensation aspects of the GOP's "Capitol Compromise" budget package, according to the firm's website.
Eugene Keefe, founding partner of Keefe, Campbell, Biery and Associates, wrote that the reform proposals include corrections to the medical fee schedule that uses Medicare rates as a one-time baseline benchmark, as well as increases to the temporary total disability (TTD) waiting period from three to five days, which is closer to the seven-day norm.
“From our perspective as defense lawyers, we are currently unsure of the impact of the proposed fee schedule ‘corrections,’” Keefe wrote. “We are sure there will be a mild savings in making the TTD waiting period longer.”
Keefe also addressed how the GOP attempts to clarify definitions for common injuries to ensure consistency in applying credits for repeat injuries.
“To our understanding, if this comp reform is passed and signed into law, the shoulder, or injuries/treatment to the shoulder, will again be awarded based on loss of use of the arm,” Keefe wrote. “A similar change will also ensure that the hip always remains part of the leg. This legislation reverses radical case law from our Appellate Court, WC Division, that magically turned shoulder injuries into part of the ‘body’ by supposedly reading a dictionary.”
He also agreed with holding the maximum permanent partial disability (PPD) rate at its current level for four years and creating a closed drug formulary that reduces over-prescription and overcharging of pharmaceuticals.
“Freezing the PPD rate at its current level of four years will provide a modest savings," he wrote. "The closed drug formulary should also provide something of a savings."
One issue that Keefe disagreed with was on whether a “traveling employee” is covered under the state Workers' Compensation (WC) Act.
“The attempt to both initially legislate the ‘traveling employee’ concept, while supposedly limiting it, is, in my view, a mess and should be quickly discarded by state Republicans,” Keefe wrote. “The words ‘traveling employee’ are not defined in the WC Act and don’t need to be. I am sure the system would be much better served to ask our hearing officers to continue to use the 'arising out of and in the course of' standard when evaluating workers who are traveling."
The "Capitol Compromise" is based on legislative progress made by Republican and Democrat lawmakers before negotiations broke down in May without an approved budget.
Keefe said the Republican proposals have the potential to be passed and signed into law by the governor.
“At present, any budget agreement will require a super majority that I understand puts the Republican General Assembly minority in something of a driver’s seat position,” Keefe wrote. “And when Republicans make the legislative proposals, it gives the Democrats plausible deniability when cuts, caps, and freezes are being made.”
Keefe suggested that stakeholders contact the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce for more legislative information.