One of the most notable musical productions from the 1950’s was “The Music Man” in which Robert Preston sold musical instruments to unsuspecting rubes in Gary, Indiana. One of Governor Rauner’s principal allies is the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), a conservative “think tank” which does little thinking but considerable propagandizing. IPI argues that Illinois law should mimic the law of neighboring Indiana so that workers’ compensation premiums will be reduced. However, that is not all that would be reduced. In fact, Indiana has perhaps the worst compensation schedule for injured workers in the United States.
Eugene Keefe, a prominent Illinois workers’ compensation defense attorney, recently penned an article which appeared in workcompcentral (October 19 2016), an insurance industry website. Keefe is not a claimant’s attorney but an employer’s attorney, which makes his comments all the more remarkable. Here is Keefe’s take on Indiana:
Indiana isn’t the Garden of Eden for workers’ compensation
We are certain Indiana workers’ comp program provides truly minimal WC benefits in many settings. They do pay for medical care, and their medical costs were some of the highest in the U.S. They just brought in a hospital medical fee schedule to rein in rising WC medical costs.
Indiana’s comp, and total and permanent awards are, in my view, comically low and push claimants to other government benefit streams, making Indiana WC appear “cheaper,” but not really. A total and permanent disability award in Indiana provides benefits for just 10 years, or 120 months. After 10 years, that’s it. The employer/insurance carrier is done.
A 25-year-old Indiana worker with serious injuries/brain damage and an unquestioned inability to work again gets benefits only until age 35. That means he or she is going to be going on Social Security Disability Insurance or welfare to eat and feed a family. Those expected costs aren’t characterized as workers comp costs, but someone has to pay for a seriously injured worker and his family for a long time.
Moving away from T&P values, Indiana PPI or impairment ratings are so low as to barely be worth it.
A worker with a badly broken arm or leg with pins and plates in the extremity who goes back to regular work might get $1,000 to $5,000.
This sets up the odd scenario where a worker can be walking into the workplace with a friend who doesn’t work there. They both fall down on a slippery substance negligently left by the owner/employer and badly break their arms. They both get more than $100,000 in medical care to fix their arms.
The friend sues and wins a jury verdict for $500,000 for the badly broken arm due to the negligence of the property owner.
The worker has the same medical care and same recovery and gets $3,000 for PPI. The worker can’t sue in civil court for the negligence of the employer; WC coverage blocks any third-party claim against the employer.
Most people feel this wildly disparate outcome is unfair. Folks in the federal government are starting to notice. If and when the leading presidential candidate on the Democratic side wins, I feel you can expect the pressure on the low-ball states to get hotter. Illinois comp may be a little bit too much, but there needs to be a fair middle ground.”
Robert Preston plied his form of snake oil in Gary, Indiana. IPI’s snake oil is to try and convince the Illinois legislature that the grass is greener in Indiana. Greener, in truth, only for IPI’s corporate masters.