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State Workers’ Compensation Program Advisory Board Meeting, September 2, 2020

State Workers’ Compensation Program Advisory Board Meeting
September 2, 2020

The State Workers’ Compensation Program Advisory Board held its meeting September 2, 2020 via Webex.  In attendance were Jack Engle (Chairperson), Ken Werts (Senate Minority Leader Appointee), Kevin Botha (Senate President Appointee), Michelle Porro (Speaker of the House Appointee), Michael Brennan (Workers’ Compensation Commission), Ron Raschia (Workers’ Compensation Commission), Greg Riddle (Attorney General), Kim Janas (Attorney General),  Kari Dennison (Assistant Deputy Director, CMS Benefits), Kevin Richey (CMS Risk Management), Nicole Featherstone (CMS Risk Management), Jim Nichelson (REV). 

Jack Engle opened the meeting with the program overview and analysis of the last 3 fiscal years.  

In FY18, FY19 and FY20 our claims received have decreased.   FY20 is better than prior years due to Covid. 

Jack discussed the reporting tool that the CMS intern created to help analyze claims data. When injuries occur on the heat map the historical data for 3 years shows a higher frequency in November during hunting season to determine if people may or may not be injured. We can look at repeat offenders to investigate things a little more down the road. The reporting tool considers claims reported and claims accepted which are claims we take liability for and have extended benefits upon. 

DHS and Corrections leaders are in claims volume. The report shows the Top 10 agencies is more automated now with the program and sorts out the data instead of having to do it manually. 

Covid-19 discussed and Jack indicated Covid claims will not likely result in settlement due to the employees receiving their full pay due to the Family First Care Act.   Additionally, if covered under the State of Illinois health plan there is no cost sharing for Covid related medical expenses. He spoke in general terms on a couple claims that have been accepted. 

He went through report with members and indicated likes, dislikes and opportunities for improvement with members etc.  He discussed SIU being on the Top 10 and usually they are not on the report so that might warrant a meeting to discuss their safety program and opportunities for improvement. He is sending the top 5 agencies a report and has been receiving good feedback from the agencies as well as the from the Commission. 

Covid-19 discussed in detail showing Kevin has increased his settlements by 50 which shows employees are more eager to settle and not using the Commission as much to settle via an Award. Awards have dropped by 180 during the same time frame due to the Commission being shut down for a short time period and CMS putting some Awards on review. The numbers will increase in the next month. We are down 12% in claims reported and subrogation has increased in FY20 by $526,162.84. 

Mike Brennan indicated that the Commission continues to operate and has utilized Emergency Arbitrators to handle hearings on a monthly basis for all call sites. They are limiting trials and limiting people in the buildings so the trials can be completed for the people who need them. They have had 2000 contracts submitted through the electronic system.  He stated the virtual pre-trials are helping get settlements done quickly, set by date and time and gets parties prepared and helping for more success.  He confirmed that the Bar had some push back on the new system and now they love it. 

Greg Riddle indicated the electronic system is going well and has been seamless. 

Jack indicated he has received a few articles regarding the new system confirming that there is press about it. 

Kevin Botha indicated the system is very easy and efficient. He went from closing a file from 4-6 weeks down to 2 weeks. He has been able to move cases that have been pending for 3 years and now have pre-trials and was able to get them moving. 

Michelle Porro indicated the system has saved on travel time and is very efficient. 

Kevin Richey stated he has received and processed 68 contracts which is very efficient.

Jack discussed the quarterly newsletter that is being sent out to the Work Comp Coordinators and that CMS is hiring a wellness manager that will promote health in the workplace and communicate with the agencies.  

There have been some anonymous calls reporting fraud activity so we can get rid of fraudulent claims and move our attention to the important claims that are legitimate and require focus.

 We have hired a new employee to take Tom’s position and her name is Laura Hammann. She will be starting on September 16th. She has a strong OSHA and safety background. 

Greg Riddle Suggested that Laura meet with Jill and the WC Assistant Attorney Generals up in Chicago because she will be working with them closely. Jack agreed and stated he will be taking her to meet them and to the other agencies to meet the Work Comp Coordinators. 

Future meetings for FY20 will be scheduled in between November and December and then another in the Spring. Jack asked the audience to reach out to him with any questions or concerns and ended the meeting was adjourned.