IL Municipality Alleges Policy Report on Work Comp Settlements Is Inaccurate

30 Jul, 2018 Liz Carey

                               

Belleville, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) – An Illinois Policy report listing municipal employees who received workers’ compensation settlements then returned to work the next day is not accurate, officials said.

According to Illinois Policy, the city of Belleville, Illinois paid out more than $2.5 million in settlements to employees who filed workers’ compensation claims between 2013 and 2018. The report said the city has so far spent $420,000 in settlements, and that in its highest year, 2016, it paid out more than $662,000 on workers’ compensation settlements.

The report also said more than 35 percent of the workers who received a settlement between 2013 and 2018 returned to work the day after the reported accident date, while still receiving more than $360,000 in settlements.

According to the Illinois Policy Institute, an independent organization, “workers’ compensation insurance as well as provisional income injured workers receive while off the job collectively cost state and local government $1 billion each year in Illinois, … and local government bear the brunt of this mandate shouldering $727 million of that nine-figure annual budget.”

But Peggy Hartmann, administrative assistant for HR with the city of Belleville, said that assumption is inaccurate. 

“Someone’s not going to get a $25,000 or $35,000 settlement for an injury where they returned to work the next day,” Hartmann said in an interview with WorkersCompensation.com. “We don’t make any settlements until the employee has reached maximum medical treatment and there’s a disability involved. That’s when the attorneys come in and negotiate a settlement.”

Like many cities in Illinois, Belleville is self-insured, she said, and as such is only responsible for the first $250,000 of any workers’ compensation claim, including medical treatment, rehabilitation and lost time at work. 

“We have over 300 employees,” Hartmann said. “For a year with more than $400,000 in settlements, all it takes is two $200,000 settlements to get to that point. Our firefighters and police officers get injured and they can’t be firefighters and police officers anymore. That’s a substantial settlement.”

Moreover, she said, many of the settlements in 2016, one of the years cited in the report, were for injuries that occurred in years prior.

“One of those incidents that were settled in 2016 happened in 2012,” she said. “The pay-out date is not the same as the date of injury.” 

The workers’ compensation system has long been under fire in Illinois with legislators looking for reform measures for the last few legislative sessions. While reforms in 2011 brought about a 30 percent decrease in all medical costs, a recent study by WCRI found that Illinois saw significant decreases in prices paid for professional services as well.

According to WCRI, Illinois had a -17 percent growth rate for prices paid for professional services between 2008 and 2017.

Calls to the Belleville Finance Dept. and the Illinois Workers’ Commission weren’t immediately returned by press time. WorkersCompensation.com will update the story if more information becomes available.

 


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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