An outside firm will take over day-to-day operations of the city of Chicago's $100 million workers compensation program, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced, calling out Ald. Ed Burke for running a system that's "ripe for corruption."
More than 12 years ago, NBC 5's Carol Marin and the Chicago Sun-Times detailed repeated abuses of the workers compensation program. At the time, Burke, still the long-time chair of the city's Finance Committee, said he had "confidence that the staff on the committee on finance has done the best that it can in an admittedly very difficult system."
A new audit of the program revealed Thursday showed 1,300 open cases, 600 of which are decades old, costing taxpayers more than $294 million.
"Under no imagination of best practices did that make sense," Lightfoot said Thursday. "People have a right to expect when they file a legitimate workers compensation claim, that it's going to be resolved in a timely fashion."
The audit also revealed that the staff is inadequately trained, there is no fraud policy and no tip hotline in place to report abuse.
"A lot of this is on paper," Lightfoot said. "It's not electronic, so there's going to be a massive undertaking to get our arms, our collective arms around the universe of claims."
The third-party firm, Gallagher Bassett, will help create a program that is "consistent with best practices across the country," she said.
Among responsibilities, Lightfoot has tasked Gallagher Bassett with adopting new technology "to expedite claims review and control medical costs and improve outcomes for injured employees."