HB 7085-Relating to Workers’ Compensation
Yesterday, Tuesday, April 18th and today, Wednesday, April 19th, HB 7085, by Representative Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) and the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee, was amended, read for a third time on the House floor and passed by a vote of 82 yeas to 37 nays.
During the amending process on the House floor, several amendments were defeated that would have eroded the bills ability to reduce workers’ compensation rates.
This legislation addresses 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.
Provisions for HB 7085 include:
- Permitting direct payment of attorneys by or for claimants making the injured worker responsible for any remaining attorney fees if required by their retainer agreement. Retainer agreements must be filed with a JCC;
- Increasing total combined TTD/TPD benefits from 104 weeks to 260 weeks;
- Closing benefit gaps occurring when TTD/TPD ends, but the injured worker is not at overall maximum medical improvement (MMI) and/or no overall permanent impairment rating;
- Requiring claimants to be notified that they may be responsible for their own attorney’s fees if they do not prevail;
- Requiring more specificity on a petition and requires a JCC to dismiss a petition for lack of specificity, without prejudice, within 10 days or 20 days, depending upon whether a hearing is required;
- Requiring claimants’ attorneys to detail hours worked in the form of an attestation to a JCC at certain intervals before a hearing on a petition for benefits (PFB);
- Requiring a good faith attempt to resolve issues before a PFB is filed and allows JCCs to dismiss PFBs when a good faith effort was not made;
- Allowing deviations from the current statutory fee schedule (departure fee) if the fees under the schedule are less than 40 percent or greater than 125 percent of the customary fee when the amount allowed under the fee schedule is converted to an hourly rate;
- Requiring a JCC, when determining the departure fee, to consider certain factors, and compute a new hourly rate capped at $150/hour which is the average hourly rate of defense attorneys;
- Allowing employers and carriers to contest departure fees within 20 days of an award which will be reviewed by a JCC in another district;
- Eliminating carrier paid attorney fees for services occurring before the filing of a petition and attaches attorney fees 45 days following the filing of a petition;
- Allowing insurers to uniformly reduce premiums by no more than five percent, if they file an information-only notice within 30 days, subject to regulatory oversight;
- Creating a mechanism to fill vacancies on the Three-Member Panel (Panel) and grants the Panel authority to fill gaps in statutory reimbursement when adopting schedules of maximum reimbursement allowances for medical care;
- Eliminating the charge-based reimbursement of health care facility outpatient medical care in favor of reimbursing them at 200 percent (unscheduled care) and 160 percent (scheduled surgery) of Medicare. If no Medicare fee exists, then current reimbursement standards apply, which are incorporated into statute;
- Requiring authorization or denial of medical care authorization requests, unless there is a material deficiency; and
- Requiring vacancies on the Three-Member Panel to be filled by the Governor within 120 days, and if the Governor does not fill the vacancy within that time period, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) would appoint a new member.
HB 7085 will now head to the floor of the Senate for consideration.
AIF SUPPORTS this legislation as we believe it is postured to be a fix to Florida’s Workers’ Compensation system fair to every person and or entity involved.
Please see the below statement from our President & CEO, Tom Feeney, regarding the passage of HB 7085:
AIF Commends Florida House on Passing Badly Needed Workers’ Comp Reforms
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,” commending the Florida House 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 full Senate.
“AIF applauds members of the Florida House for passing HB 7085 today. We also thank Representative Burgess and House Leadership for their work on this good bill.
“Since the Florida Supreme Court ruled Florida’s workers’ compensation system unconstitutional, AIF’s workers’ compensation task force has been saying we need solid measures that address Florida’s floundering system.
“Floridians deserve a stable, self-executing and affordable workers’ compensation system, not one that leaves injured employees at the mercy of unscrupulous trial lawyers. HB 7085 will help give Florida’s business community the tools needed to ensure injured workers are receiving benefits in a timely manner and at affordable prices to employers.
“AIF looks forward to continuing the dialogue on this good bill as it heads to the full Senate for their consideration.”
# # #
SB 1582 -Relating to Workers’ Compensation Insurance
On Wednesday, April 19th, SB 1582, by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park), was heard before the Senate Committee on Rules and passed by a vote of 10 yeas to 0 nays. Jim McConnaughhay spoke in opposition to this bill on behalf of AIF.
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. AIF hopes to continue to work with the Legislature as we are confident that there is a solution that will address all aspects of the workers’ compensation system in Florida so that Floridians can avoid unnecessary, costly and time consuming litigation and receive the benefits they need if injured at work as quickly as possible.
SB 1582 will move on to the Senate floor for consideration.
AIF OPPOSES this piece of legislation as it does not adequately address the rising cost of workers’ compensation rates on Florida’s employers due to increased costs of attorney fees.
HB 1421-Relating to Property Insurance Assignment Agreements
On Wednesday, April 19th, HB 1421 by Representative James Grant (R-Tampa) was heard by the House Commerce Committee and passed by a vote of 21 yeas to 7 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this bill.
The legislation seeks to address the fraud and abuse within the process of assignment of benefits (AOB) by removing the one-way attorney fee, which will reduce AOB lawsuits that drive up property insurance costs on Florida’s businesses and homeowners. AOB is a practice whereby lawyers and contractors convince homeowners to sign over their right to sue insurers for certain kinds of home damage. Insurers typically settle these claims to avoid protracted and expensive court battles, and by current Florida law they’re on the hook for attorney fees too.
HB 1421 will now go to the House floor for consideration.
AIF SUPPORTS reforms to the assignment of benefits process to protect consumers against these abuses.
Please see the below statement from our President & CEO, Tom Feeney, regarding HB 1421:
AIF: Florida Must Get to Heart of Abuse in Florida’s Property Insurance Market
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) today released the following statement on behalf of its President & CEO Tom Feeney regarding House Bill 1421, by Representative James Grant, relating to Property Insurance Assignment Agreements. HB 1421 was today heard in the House Commerce Committee, its second and last committee of reference.
“AIF supports getting rid of abusive cost drivers in our state's property insurance marketplace, and reforming assignment of benefits this session is one way to stamp out the bad actors that are creating a crisis for Florida homeowners.
“Floridians deserve an insurance marketplace free from unnecessary litigation over auto glass repair and property water damage, which needlessly inflates insurance premiums. While this bill improves the current state of the property insurance marketplace, there are opportunities to create even more cost savings for consumers.
“AIF is hopeful that as this bill advances to the House floor, it will continue to improve its chances of meaningfully reducing costs for premium payers."
# # #