Quinn signs workers' compensation reform bill into law

MARION, IL (KFVS) - On a day when two former Illinois governors are in the spotlight, the current Illinois governor makes a stop in the Heartland.  Pat Quinn touched down in Marion late Tuesday afternoon. It was the last stop on his state tour to sign a workers' compensation bill.

Quinn said the bill will save employers money, and in turn, bring more jobs to the state. He added it also provides a number of protections for injured workers as well.

The bill comes after many had called for reform of the system. But one southern Illinois business leader says the new law doesn't solve all the problems however it's a step in the right direction.

At the Marion Chamber of Commerce, CEO and President George Trammell's office is decorated with signs. One reads "Energized for your Future Marion, Illinois."  It's one of the many signed used to help grow business in the Marion area. Trammell says when he speaks with potential clients, they usually ask about workers compensation.

"They want to know what workman's comp issues are for the state and that's one of the things we cannot say, with any confidence, that were just not competitive with the states that are around us," Trammell said.

Illinois has one of the highest workers compensation premiums in the nation. But under the new law, a number of provisions will reduce burdens on business owners. The changes are supposed to save more than half a million dollars from a $3 billion workers' compensation system.

The reform package also includes a major overhaul of Illinois's troubled Workers' Compensation Commission.  But Trammell says despite the changes there's still more room for improvement.

"The new workman's comp legislation is better than what there is before, it's still not what you would consider reform," Trammell said.

The law also requires physicians and arbitrators use standers set by the American Medical Association when setting an impairment and disability. It creates a workers' compensation provider network, along with a process for electronic billing. The changes include a 30 percent reduction in medical payments. The new guidelines also will make it harder for intoxicated workers to win claims.

But the Illinois State Medical Society President Dr. Wayne Polek said the changes employees will see in the Doctor's offices will not be for the better.  Instead Polek said injured workers will have to wait longer for care.

"It's just more difficult to take care of these patients and you are not reimbursed enough it may not be economically feasible for physicians to take care of those patients," Polek said. "Since they're fewer providers available there's less resources for injured parties and the injured parties can't be taken care of in a timely fashion to go back to work."

Still Quinn said, "This overhaul is going to improve the strength of our state's business climate and economy."

The bill also stipulated that an advisory board will be appointed to review the state's workers' compensation program.

Meanwhile, Republicans lawmakers didn't think the workers compensation reforms went far enough.

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