The following letter to the editor by ITLA President John P. Scanlon was published in the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, July 19, 2017.
Robert Reed’s July 11th article regarding workers’ compensation raised some interesting questions. It noted that in 2011 our state passed restrictions on the types of benefits paid to injured workers. Unfortunately, Mr. Reed only had access to data from 2013 to evaluate whether these restrictions successfully reduced payouts. Because only 2013 data was evaluated, the analysis was flawed. To be clear, any payouts in 2013 would largely be based on claims filed before the 2011 reform and those benefits were not reduced by the restrictions passed in 2011.
To fully see how much injured workers’ benefits have been reduced, data from 2011 through 2016 must be analyzed. Here are the relevant facts for 2011 to 2016: the number of claims filed fell by 15 percent; insurance profits increased by nearly 22 percent; and insurance companies paid out 19 percent less in benefits.
If insurance company payouts fell by 19 percent and claims filed per year dropped by 15 percent, one would think that this tremendous savings would have been passed along to employers. That has not happened. Instead, while insurance companies saw their profits soar by 22 percent, premiums were not reduced. We have more workers’ compensation insurance companies in this state (332) than any other state because of these high profits.
So the overall premise of Mr. Reed’s article is correct. We do need reform – reform directed at the insurance companies. Like other states, we must require that insurance company profits and cost savings are regulated so that savings are passed along to the employers to create more jobs here. This time, let’s make sure the reform works and to do that we need to regulate the insurance companies, not further restrict benefits to victims of dangerous workplaces.
John P. Scanlon
President, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association