State Workers’ Compensation Program Advisory Board Meeting, January 28, 2021
On January 28, 2021, The State Workers’ Compensation Program Advisory Board met virtually via Webex. Chairman Engle opened the meeting with a calendar Year comparison and analysis of the last 3 years. In calendar years 18, 19 and 20, the volume of claims resolved via settlement and awards have increased.
A discussion regarding the analysis tool and the group was advised the tool continues to be revised and plans are being implemented to provide reports to agencies on demand after the website is created. He expressed his desire to be able to show which job titles to focus on to reduce accidents.
As of the meeting date, there have been 190 COVID-19 claims reported to CMS.
Chairman Engle informed the attendees that Work Comp Coordinator Training was completed on January 26, 2021 for the larger agencies. This was a collaborative project with the office of the Inspector General. He also advised that these trainings will be available on the website once developed.
Fraud investigations are being handled with the assistance of Brad Lucchini at the DOI. CMS is engaged with him on several investigations. We have received assistance with ISP on a claim as well. We have been using a heat map that is used during hunting season and we have uncovered a few cases where employees will report injuries right before hunting season and we have a contact at DNR who confirmed these individuals have hunting license and permits and they harvested deer while off work. We were able to terminate benefits on these individuals.
Chairman Engle discussed how work from home initiative has impacted claims volume by demonstrating a 2020 reduction in claims reported of 25% when compared to 2019 and 23% compared to 2018. While claims volume is lower, we have been able to focus on our older claims and brought several to resolution.
Be Well Illinois was implemented to create an awareness on what employees need to do to live a healthier lifestyle. Our newsletters will start including a section on Be Well Illinois to create a cultural awareness to lead to quicker recoveries. CMS has committed to increase
communication, access to resources and engagement. Be Well Illinois will reduce Work Comp costs by relaying the message that a healthy worker is an alert worker, an alert worker is a safe worker, a safe worker is an efficient worker an efficient worker is a productive worker. All parts of this message lead to reduced injuries on the job and result in savings for the State.
Chairman Brennan asked if CMS has seen any Work Comp cases come through from people working from home and Chairman Engle indicated he had one inquiry, but no claims have been submitted. Chairman Brennan indicated he has had conversations from employers whose staff are working from home and they too have had a decrease in WC claims and have not had any claims from employees working from home. Chairman Engle indicated he has also seen a decrease in auto accidents as well.
Chairman Brennan asked if there will be an effort to keep people working virtually in the future.
Chairman Engle advised that he hopes there will be an effort in some form but there still must be an in-office presence.
Chairman Engle asked if there were any suggested items to discuss at the next meeting and opened the meeting for discussion.
Chairman Brennan indicated that a couple things are happening with the Commission. They are receiving all the first reports of injury electronically and are able to look at trends as they pertain to claims. They were able to determine 18% of all claims filed had to do with COVID-19. They are also going to be going paperless before the end of February and it will give us better control of the applications.
Chairman Engle asked Chairman Brennan if he has noticed the applications trending downward and he confirmed they have. At the end of calendar year of 2019 there was 38k filings which is consistent with the last few years. During calendar year 2020 there have been 32k filings statewide. He believes the unemployment had a significate effect on the filings as well.
Future meetings for FY20 we will have a full year of COVID-19 data. Chairman Engle indicated that data is trending downward, but it will be good to see the big picture on how our work from home initiative is impacting claims overall. The meeting was adjourned.