Illinois legislation seeks to make changes in workers’ compensation for paramedics

Work AccidentIn the course of their work, paramedics can face many, serious risks. According to the National Association of State EMS Officials, emergency medical service workers are six times more likely to be injured on the job, or to contract an occupational illness, than are employees in other professions. Many paramedics, who suffer from a work-related injury or illness, rely on workers’ compensation benefits to not only cover the costs of their medical treatment, but also to help supplement income that is lost due to time off of work for recovery.

Paramedics’ injury risks

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, paramedics are largely at risk for injuries due to some of the hazardous job duties they are asked to perform. This includes:

  • Lifting heavy equipment or patients
  • Administering treatments to patients suffering from infectious illnesses
  • Handling hazardous body substances or chemicals
  • Transporting patients in emergency vehicles via ground or air 

Even with precautions and care, some accidents and incidents cannot be prevented for workers in these occupations. In response to the ever-growing number of work-related injuries and illnesses among paramedics, some legislators in Illinois have proposed changes to the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act that would reduce the amount of benefits paramedics receive.

Proposed legislative changes

A new piece of legislation, HB 2229, was proposed in 2013 to the state of Illinois’ House of Representatives. If approved, the bill would define a distinction in the law between paramedics and firefighters. This would effectually lower the level of protection available to paramedics, who were injured on the job or developed an occupational illness.

The bill’s suggested changes would put severe restrictions on any claims for exposure to certain pathogens, which may cause blood-borne diseases, as well as for exposure to respiratory illnesses, including tuberculosis. HB 2229 would affect all paramedics and emergency medical technicians who are not also cross-trained as firefighters.

Support and opposition for HB 2229

Those who support HB 2229 argue that it will lead to decreased insurance premiums. The reduction in insurance rates, supporters suggest, would potentially help the state budget. They add that, over time, these decreased premiums will likely translate into increased wages for people in these occupations. The bill’s opposition, however, claim that HB 2229 reduces the compensation coverage for paramedics, who need the protection against the risks they regularly face while performing their job duties. This risk, those opposed suggest, is too great for the possible budget implications and the chance of eventual increased pay to overcome.

Particularly while changes, such as those proposed by HB 2229, are in consideration, paramedics may find it helpful to consult with an attorney to learn about the proposed changes and their rights.

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