HB 1107-Relating to Public Records/Workers’ Compensation
On Thursday, April 6th, HB 1107, by Representative Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) was heard by the House Commerce Committee and passed unanimously by a vote of 25 yeas to 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this bill.
This bill would exempt private and personal identifying information of an injured worker or deceased employee from public record. Currently, this information is open to the public and often times injured workers are inundated with outreach from attorneys wanting to take on their cases immediately after filing their claim.
HB 1107 will now go to the House floor to be heard.
AIF SUPPORTS protecting the private information of injured or deceased employees.
HB 7085-Relating to Workers’ Compensation
On Thursday, April 6th, HB 7085, by Representative Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) and the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee, was heard by the House Commerce Committee, amended, and passed by a vote of 20 yeas to 9 nays. AIF stood in support of the bill as amended.
This legislation seeks to address the issues within Florida’s Workers’ Compensation law that have deemed the law unconstitutional, specifically the issue of rate increases, attorney fees, claimant benefits, etc.
During committee three amendments offered by Representative Burgess were adopted. AIF stood in support of all three amendments.
- The first amendment addresses the unconstitutionality of Castellanos case and the issue of attorney fees. It requires the claimants’ attorneys to detail hours worked in the form of an attestation to a judge of compensation claims (JCC) at certain intervals before a hearing on a petition for benefits (PFB); allows deviations from the current statutory fee schedule, called a “departure fee,” if the fees under the schedule are less than 40% or greater than 125% of the customary fee when the amount allowed under the fee schedule is converted to an hourly rate; in a “departure fee” scenario, a JCC must determine the number of hours worked by a claimant attorney, deduct hours related to benefits on which the claimant did not prevail, and reduce excessive hours. In determining a “departure fee,” a JCC must consider certain factors, and compute a new hourly rate which may not exceed $150/hour. Employers and carriers can contest departure fees within 20 days of an award and that will be reviewed by a JCC in another district. AIF SUPPORTS this amendment because it substantively improves the language in the base bill and caps the biggest cost driver of workers’ compensation litigation, attorney fees.
- The second amendment addresses the unconstitutionality of the Westphal case, and makes revisions to the provision of temporary total disability benefits (TTD) and temporary partial disability benefits (TPD). It essentially allows an employee to extend the number of weeks they receive benefits if they are still improving and have not yet reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). AIF SUPPORTS this amendment as we believe it is a necessary response to the Westphal case. The business community is supportive of ensuring appropriate benefits for injured workers, recognizing that the main cost driver in workers’ compensation is attorneys’ fees.
- The third amendment addresses the unconstitutionality of the Miles case, and puts claimants on notice that they could be responsible for paying their own attorney’s fees if their attorney does not prevail on their claim for benefits. It also requires a petition for benefits (PFB) to include specific information, so that employers and carriers can appropriately respond to a claimant’s request, and requires a good faith attempt at resolving those issues before a PFB is filed. Judges of compensation claims (JCCs) can dismiss PFBs where a good faith effort at resolving a claim is not made. AIF SUPPORTS this amendment as it ensures consumer protection so that claimants aren’t duped into exorbitant contracts with plaintiffs’ attorneys. This fixes Miles, which basically would allow claimants to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous plaintiffs’ attorneys. Claimants should have full knowledge and disclosure of the impact of fee arrangements in the interest of consumer protection.
Also during committee, AIF stood in opposition to two amendments that were reported unfavorable by the committee.
- The first, offered by Representative Sean Shaw (D-Tampa) provided that, in lieu of the National Council of Compensation Insurance (NCCI) filing combined rates with the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) for review and approval, that insurance companies would be able to file their rates individually. In addition, it said that NCCI would be authorized to collect “loss costs” and that companies could use these costs in deciding their individual rate filings. AIF OPPOSED this amendment because changing the entity that files rates would have no effect on diminishing the need for rate increases. The only solution to the problem of rate increases is to address the case law that actually caused the increase. Currently, and under this amendment, the OIR has ultimate authority to review and approve rates, so the amendment would change nothing about the ultimate rate decision and impact to businesses.
- The second amendment, offered by Representative Jared Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs) sought to loosen the process by which claimants access treating physicians. Essentially, it provides for unlimited changes in treating physicians.” Currently, an injured employee’s treating physician is selected by the employer/carrier. The employer/carrier must give the employee the opportunity for one change of physician during the course of treatment. AIF OPPOSED this amendment because it would encourage “doctor shopping,” and therefore, is likely to increase costs to the system and business.
HB 7085 is not currently assigned to any other committees of reference.
AIF ultimately SUPPORTED the bill as we believe this legislation is now postured to be a fix to Florida’s Workers’ Compensation system fair to every person and or entity involved.
Please see the below press releases regarding HB 7085 and the action taken today:
AIF Calls on House Commerce Committee to Adopt Workers’ Comp Amendments
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) today released the following statement on behalf of its President & CEO Tom Feeney, who also serves as the chair of its “Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force,” that calls on the Florida House Commerce Committee to adopt the amendments to House Bill 7085, by the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and Representative Danny Burgess, relating to Workers’ Compensation. HB 7085 will be heard today in the House Commerce Committee, its first and only committee of reference.
“AIF today calls on members of the Florida House Commerce Committee to adopt the amendments to HB 7085 that will go a long way in rectifying our state’s wounded workers’ compensation system. While there is still more work to be done to make Florida’s workers’ compensation system whole again, these good amendments support some of the fixes Florida’s business community proposed under our ‘Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force.’
‘AIF commends the Representative Burgess and the committee for their hard work on this legislation. It is imperative we relieve burdensome pressures on Florida’s employers while ensuring injured workers get healthier in a timely manor. Florida deserves a stable, self-executing and affordable system to care for injured workers. With these amendments adopted today, HB 7085 could provide a solid framework for containing the crises created by hostile Florida Court decisions that would otherwise undercut Florida’s workers’ compensation system.”
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AIF Applauds House Commerce Committee for Passing Solid Workers’ Comp Legislation
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) today released the following statement on behalf of its President & CEO Tom Feeney, who also serves as the chair of its “Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force,” that applauds the Florida House Commerce Committee for passing House Bill 7085, by the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and Representative Danny Burgess, relating to Workers’ Compensation. HB 7085 will now head to the House floor.
“AIF applauds the Florida House Commerce Committee for passing HB 7085 out of its committee today. This is solid legislation that will go a long way in rectifying our state’s workers’ compensation system.
“Florida deserves a stable, self-executing and affordable system to care for injured workers, and this bill includes some of the proposals Florida’s business community proposed under our ‘Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force.’
“AIF thanks Representative Burgess for his work on this good bill and looks forward to seeing it advance to the full House.”
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