Insurers' delays threaten workers' comp system

Updated 6/11/2018 12:03 PM

There's a crisis looming in our state's workers' compensation system. If allowed to fester, it will keep workers from receiving timely medical treatment for workplace injuries, delaying their recoveries and their return to work. You haven't heard about it from the business and workers' compensation insurance communities.

It's a crisis created by their failure to follow Illinois' existing laws.

Illinois law protects medical professionals' right to prompt payment for patients with workplace injuries. But many Illinois workers' compensation insurers completely ignore the prompt payment law.

Furthermore, Illinois requires insurers to accept electronic billing and documentation for workers' compensation claims. Yet many insist on an obsolete paper-based system, delaying medical care to injured workers and wasting resources. The result is more physicians unwilling or unable to treat injured workers.

Since 2005, the Workers' Compensation Act has guaranteed medical professionals a late-payment interest penalty for approved workers' compensation medical care. But there is no way to enforce or collect this interest. Workers' compensation insurers often approve care for an injured worker, only to delay payment for the medical treatment rendered. These delays can last for years.

Medical professionals actually deliver the care that supports our entire system, helping get injured employees back to work and reduce employer costs for time off and long-term injuries. Yet we are often blamed for the system's ills, which is misguided and unfair.

It's time to force workers' compensation insurers to start following the law. The alternative is having doctors and care centers rush to the exits.

Brian Murphy, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon, Naperville

Michael Vender, M.D., Hand and Wrist Surgeon, Arlington Heights

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