Controversy surrounds workers' compensation in Springfield

Republicans claim a deal on a new state budget is within reach in the State Capitol. But several issues still block an agreement, including one on workers' compensation.

The owners of Keats Manufacturing say workers comp insurance costs them more than a quarter-million dollars a year to cover 70 production workers at their factory in Wheeling. They're cheering Gov. Rauner's attempt to reduce that bill.

“The governor's on the right track. I mean he's trying to get some reforms here,” said Wade Keats.

The cost of workers' comp insurance in Illinois jumped after 2005. That's when the General Assembly and then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered big increases in fees paid to hospitals and doctors who care for workers injured on the job. Before that, Illinois' workers comp costs were close to the national average.

Now, they’re the seventh highest in America.

Employers complain that, for the same orthopedic hand or wrist surgery, Illinois Medicare pays $6,676, but workers comp makes employers pay $14,215.

As for Arthroscopic surgery on a rotator cuff: Medicare $2,574, workers comp $7,850.

Springfield's top Democrat ridicules Rauner's push to reduce workers' comp costs, claiming Republicans want to deny care to injured workers.

“We hear the Speaker say, 'Those Republicans just want to send injured workers to the hospital emergency room and have nothing to do with them!' That's ridiculous! Nothing could be further from the truth,” said State Senator Christine Radogno.

Sources tell FOX 32 the sides met and negotiated over workers comp for an hour Monday. Democratic sources said significant progress has been made. It's an issue that could hold the key to doing a much bigger deal on a state budget.