SB 1008 & HB 1107-Relating to Public Records/Injured or Deceased Employee/Department of Financial Services
On Monday, April 3rd, SB 1008, by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) was heard before the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance and passed unanimously by a vote of 8 yeas to 0 nays. AIF stood in support of this bill.
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.
Tess bills 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.
SB 1008 will now go to the Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability to be heard.
HB 1107 will now go to the House floor to be heard.
AIF SUPPORTS protecting the private information of injured or deceased employees.
SB 1218-Relating to Property Repair
On Monday, April 3rd, SB 1218, by Senator Gary Farmer (D-Fort Lauderdale), was heard by the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance and passed by a vote of 6 yeas to 2 nays. AIF stood in opposition of this bill.
During committee SB 1218 was amended and now provides for the regulation of water restoration providers, prohibits one-way attorney fees from being used in rate making calculations, and prohibits managed repair and preferred provider arrangements. While this bill aims to provide for a solution to assignment of benefits (AOB), it actually compounds the problem by further entrenching special interests, such as restoration companies who, take AOBs from policyholders, effectively stripping them of their benefits. In addition, it legitimizes the use of the one-way attorney fee statute for third party vendors, something that even the Florida Supreme Court has said was never the intent. Rather, the statute was meant to protect policyholders.
SB 1218 will move on to the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries for its next hearing.
AIF OPPOSES reforms to the assignment of benefits (AOB) process that will NOT protect consumers against these abuses.
SB 1582 -Relating to Workers’ Compensation Insurance
On Monday, April 3rd, SB 1582, by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park), was heard before the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance and passed by a vote of 7 yeas to 1 nay. AIF stood in opposition to this bill.
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. While AIF applauds Senator Bradley for his hard work on this delicate issue, 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 Committee on Appropriations for its next hearing.
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.
Please see below statement from our President & CEO, Tom Feeney, regarding SB 1218, SB 1582, SB 1008 and SB 1684 heard in the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance meeting on Monday, April 3rd:
AIF on Assignment of Benefits, Workers’ Compensation & Insurance Rates Legislation
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) today released the following statement on behalf of its President & CEO Tom Feeney regarding Senate Bill 1218, by Senator Gary Farmer, relating to Property Repair; Senate Bill 1582, by Senator Rob Bradley, relating to Workers’ Compensation Insurance; Senate Bill 1008, by Senator Keith Perry, relating to Public Records/Injured or Deceased Employee/Department of Financial Services; as well as Senate Bill 1684, by Senator Farmer, relating to Insurance Rates. These bills were today heard in the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee, their first committee of reference.
“AIF supports legislation that addresses cost drivers in our state’s property insurance market, as well as legislation that helps restore a stable, self-executing and affordable system for injured workers.
“While we appreciate the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee for hearing legislation today that addresses Assignment of Benefits (AOB) and workers’ compensation, AIF believes SB 1218 actually takes the property insurance marketplace backwards, while SB 1582 don’t go far enough. Further, AIF does not support SB 1684, which attempts to change the rate-making process for litigation, resulting in Florida businesses having to settle everything, even the most frivolous of lawsuits, or jeopardize capital needed to pay claims in the result of a hurricane. In fact, the Senate’s own staff analysis recognizes that SB 1684 will likely lead to an increase in insurance rates.
“Bad actors across Florida are creating unnecessary litigation over property water damage and auto glass repair that’s taking benefits from Florida policyholders while at the same time making their insurance premiums skyrocket. AOB abuse must be stamped out for the sake of Florida’s property insurance market, which in turn will help relieve Florida homeowners and business owners from the rising cost of litigation by unscrupulous lawyers and vendors.
“The same goes for our state’s workers’ compensation system. While AIF supports SB 1008, which addresses one component of abuses faced by Florida’s employers by exempting public records relating to injured or deceased workers, AIF believes there is still more to be done to make Florida’s workers’ compensation system whole again. Floridians deserve a workers’ compensation system that works to their benefit, not to the benefit of trial lawyers. Under AIF’s ‘Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force,’ the business community came together on comprehensive solutions that would protect the rights of employers and employees. We need a complete set of measures that 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.
“AOB and workers’ compensation are must-fix issues this session, and AIF looks forward to continuing the thoughtful discussions with our state’s leaders on how we can relieve these pressures that are negatively impacting Florida’s families and businesses.”
# # #
HB 7085-Relating to Workers’ Compensation
On Thursday, April 6th, the House version of Workers’ Compensation, 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 amended. AIF and the business community believes 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 on Thursday April 4th during the House Commerce Committee meeting:
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.”
# # #
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.”
# # #