Ridge & Downes - Law Firm

  • PROOF BY ASSERTION: If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.

    Governor Rauner is still demanding workers’ compensation “reform” in the ongoing budget standoff.  In pursuit of this goal, the Governor has adopted the political rhetoric in which a proposition is repeatedly restated regardless of its’ truth.  He is trying to brainwash the people of this State into believing that everything that is wrong with Illinois is because of workers’ compensation.  We refuse to allow the Governor’s political rhetoric to go uncontradicted.

    This month, we want to bring you some facts about workers’ compensation in Illinois so when you see issues in the press you can spread the truth to those around you.

    If you follow workers’ compensation debates, you may have heard of the Oregon Study. If you haven’t, each year the State of Oregon publishes a comprehensive study about Workers’ Compensation throughout the USA. So what does this report actually say?  Illinois’ premium index rate has decreased 11.32% from 2004 to 2014. 

    Some more fun facts:

    • Insurers reported a 19% decrease in total benefit payments (loss costs) between 2011 and 2015, largely the result of the 2011 Amendments, which reduced medical fees by 30% and made other changes.  Further savings is anticipated once the full effects of the 2011 Amendments are felt. 
    • The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute reported in October 2015 that medical payments in Illinois feel below neighboring states of Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa.  The report says that the 2011changes lowered the amount insurers spent per claim by 20 percent.  This is the largest decrease in the average medical payment per claim among study states.
    • Illinois wages are 6% higher than the U.S. average. (Workers’ Compensation premiums are based, in part, on wages.)
    • Illinois has the most workers’ compensation insurers of any state.  Since 2006, the number of insurance companies writing workers’ compensation policies in Illinois has jumped 13 percent.
    • The National Council on Compensation Insurance recommended a 20% reduction for Illinois workers’ Compensation insurance rates.
    • A report from the Illinois Department of Insurance shows that profits within the Illinois workers’ compensation sector have increased since the 2011 changes.  Insurers are not passing on the profits to employers in the form of premium decreases.

    Instead of passing these savings on to Illinois businesses, insurers are throwing parties complete with Hummer limos, go-go dancers, a live alligator and glowing aliens in spandex.  This is according to the next edition of the ProPublica/NPR investigation into the race to the bottom occurring nationwide.  ProPublica investigated the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo.  They reported that there are more than 150 such conferences a year, bringing together claims professionals (adjusters) and members of the cost containment cottage industries that serve them: companies that provide networks of doctors and companies that review medical bills, firms that provide expert medical opinions and firms that specialize in complex claims, defense lawyers, data processing firms, rehab facilities, surveillance companies, outside claims shops, occupational medicine clinics, pain management services, translators, schedulers, headhunters, labs that test injured workers’ urine for illegal drugs, labs that test urine to ensure workers are taking the prescribed drugs instead of selling them.  These groups have a lot to celebrate, many of them have seen their stock prices double in the last couple years.  But the growth of these cost containment firms has added another layer of cold bureaucracy and complication to an already complex system that the average worker finds himself lost in.

    Tell Governor Rauner that you know better.  The benefits provided to injured workers is not what needs reform.  Further reforms should focus on insurance industry and self-insureds’ transparency and oversight.  The Legislative Research Unit reports that workers’ compensation costs for State employees fell 8% between 2013 and 2014, however other self-insured employers, such as Caterpillar, have refused to disclose the savings they are experiencing from the 2011 Amendments.  There are two bills pending that would create a task force to study premium rates and self-insurance transparency: House Bill 1287 and Senate Bill 162.

    If you ever have any questions about the hard facts, give us a call at (312) 372-8282.  We are happy to answer any questions you have about personal injury or workers’ compensation.

  • New Year, New You

    It is the time of year to decide on your New Year’s Resolution for 2016!  Some of us have the same resolutions from year-to-year and never quite keep up with them, while others decide to change their resolutions each year.  This year, Ridge & Downes has a resolution suggestion for you….weight loss!  We know that this rocket-science resolution may shock you, but in all honesty, throughout the years we have seen weight loss benefit our clients in terms of assisting with smooth, speedy and permanent recoveries from orthopedic injuries.

    For many clients, weight loss has been the golden ticket to getting them through their workers’ compensation cases smoothly.  Although we have seen weight loss assist with many of our clients’ injuries, we most commonly see the benefits for clients dealing with back and knee injuries.  The weight loss success stories that have been shared with us are endless.  One client had a permanent spinal cord stimulator implanted in his back to assist with pain management after a failed surgery.  Several years later, the client lost a large amount of weight and had much less pain.  The stimulator (which was intended to be permanent) was able to be removed and the client now suffers very little pain!  Other clients have shared stories of relief from daily pain and the ability to stop wearing knee or back braces after successful weight loss!

    Weight loss not only helps clients gain relief from daily pain, but can also help clients receive the best care following an injury.  Our clients with excess weight often recover more slowly from on-the-job injuries and some are never able to have a permanent recovery.  We also see cases where our clients are unable to undergo certain medical procedures or surgeries because their excess weight causes them to be at too great a risk to undergo these procedures.  In these very unfortunate situations, insurance companies are known to cut off workers’ compensation benefits until the client’s weight is no longer an issue in terms of allowing the client to undergo the necessary treatment to cure or relieve the client from the effects of his or her workers’ compensation injury.

    As a general rule, it is always recommended that you start off a weight loss journey on a slow note.  And, of course (our legal disclaimer…) we do not recommend that anyone undergo a weight loss journey without first consulting with your physician, especially if you are undergoing treatment for a workers’ compensation injury.  Although weight loss almost always benefits clients, in some instances, your medical provider may wish for you to wait to start a weight loss journey or give you specific instructions on activities you may or may not perform while undergoing treatment for your work-related injury.

    At Ridge & Downes, we often start the New Year with a “Biggest Loser” weight loss competition.  Some years we have more drop-outs than others and some years we even continue after March!  This year, we will all resolve to work alongside of our clients and try to become healthier….even if that means eating or drinking a little less at some of our client functions!

    From our family to yours, we wish you a year full of peace, prosperity and WEIGHT LOSS!

  • Protect Workers' Rights

    Protect Workers' Rights

    As we’ve reported previously, Governor Rauner’s turnaround agenda listed workers’ compensation “reform” as one of his main goals. At this time, Governor Rauner is currently holding the State budget hostage in exchange for lowering or terminating the benefits of injured workers.

    Governor Rauner has indicated that structural reforms to our workers’ compensation system are needed to bring costs in line with other states. However, the Washington, D.C.-based Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, an insurance industry group, reported in October that medical payments per claim fall below those in Indiana and Wisconsin.  Crain’s reports that the WCRI study strengthens the arguments by Democrats who say more time is needed to determine the results of the 2011 reforms. The report says that the 2011 changes lowered the amount insurers spent per claim by 20 percent.

    ​Unfortunately workers’ compensation insurers have not passed along their savings in the form of lower premiums. This is in spite of the National Council on Compensation Insurance, an industry rate making agency, recommending a nearly 20% reduction for Illinois workers’ Compensation insurance rates.This would have saved Illinois employers over $1 BILLION in insurance premiums.

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