We are in the “Dog Days of Summer” which is a reference from Roman times when it was believed that the heat of summer was caused by the appearance of Sirius, the Dog Star. This is a time when the heat is so intense that work slows down, vacations are taken and there is a general malaise. In a few weeks, school will start, the work world will begin to hum again and fall will appear.
In the United States most legislative activity occurs in the winter months and there is virtually no activity in the summer. That is certainly true in Illinois but there are certain developments that are of interest and promise to have to have an effect when the Illinois legislature begins its a study of certain issues in the Fall, including Governor Rauner’s proposals concerning workers’ compensation laws.
The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) recently proposed that Illinois pass an “Opt Out” law allowing employers to create their own alternative workers’ compensation system similar to that legislated in Texas and Oklahoma (the Oklahoma legislation has been declared unconstitutional).
The IPI is a 501(c)(3) entity with an associated lobbying unit called the Illinois Policy Action, a 501(c)(4). Bruce Rauner – just prior to being elected Governor of Illinois – was chairman of the Chicago-based private equity firm GTCR and donated $525,000 to IPI between 2008 and 2013. http://www.sj-r.com/article/20131107/NEWS/311079879
IPI is a well-funded conservative “think tank” which initiated efforts to end a physician’s right to dispense medicines from his or her offices even though Illinois has already enacted a price control statute to control overcharging. It is part of a national network of “think tanks” which do very little “thinking” but a lot of “advocating” legislative changes that will help business bottom lines by weakening consumer protection, environmental and patient friendly laws.
The American Insurance Association (AIA) immediately rejected the IPI proposal, stating that workers’ compensation “reform” should follow the more typical path of reducing the medical fee schedule as well as prohibiting the physician dispensing of medicines.
For the last number of years, the workers’ compensation insurance industry and its allied groups have been successful in emasculating workers’ compensation laws in almost 20 states, principally because they present a united front and push an agreed, common agenda. The IPI “Opt Out” is a break from that common agenda.
Hence, a big “Indian” has left the reservation and this “Indian” has a close intellectual kinship with Governor Rauner. It seems unlikely that this “Opt Out” proposal will receive serious attention as it has never been seriously considered in other states when recently proposed. However, one thing is certain: the united front of “reform” in Illinois is now fractured.