April 25, 2012
By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Program has “numerous shortcomings” and is “ill designed to protect the state’s best interests,” according to a state audit released Wednesday.
Auditor General Bill Holland’s report urges lawmakers to change the program for state employees because of “extensive problems.”
Between 2007 and 2010, state workers filed 26,101 workers’ compensation claims with more than half from the state Departments of Human Services and Corrections:
- 1,180 claims — the highest number from any state agency — from Chester Mental Health Center,
- 869 claims from Menard Correctional Center in Chester — the most of any corrections facility.
The state paid out a total of more than $295 million during that time frame. Sprains and contusions accounted for three-quarters of all injuries.
The audit identified problems within the Workers’ Compensation Commission and the state’s Central Management Service, or CMS, both of which oversee the workers’ compensation program. Among the findings:
- The commission failed to review arbitrators’ performance annually and had no guidelines for how arbitrators were to award compensation for particular injuries, causing inconsistencies.
- CMS negotiated settlements with injured employees’ attorneys, made decisions about compensation without appropriate forms and had no policies to address conflicts of interest by those who handle workers’ compensation claims for the state.
Also, the review board that investigates complaints against arbitrators and commissioners did not meet for three and a half years.
The audit also says the Illinois Attorney General’s Office had no policies for handling workers’ compensation cases referred to it.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan said her office does have policies regarding fraud and misconduct.
“We’ve always had comprehensive policies in place that mandate (assistant attorneys general) report any conduct they believe may constitute a violation of law," she said. "These written policies require reporting all potential illegal or improper conduct—not just limited to fraud in workers’ compensation cases—and conform with our ethical obligations as attorneys.”
Both CMS and the Workers' Compensation Commission indicated in the auditor's report that they plan to address or have begun addressing most of the audit’s recommendations.