HB 1107 & SB 1008-Relating to Public Records/Workers’ Compensation
On Tuesday, May 2nd, SB 1008, by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) was laid on the table and substituted with HB 1107, by Representative Ben Albritton (R-Bartow). HB 1107 was amended, read for a third time on the Senate floor and passed by a vote of 37 yeas to 0 nays.
On Wednesday, May 3rd, HB 1107, by Representative Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) was taken up as amended by the Senate. The House then concurred with the amended version of the bill and passed HB 1107 by a vote of 119 yeas to 0 nays.
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 desk of the Governor.
AIF SUPPORTS protecting the private information of injured or deceased employees.
HB 7085 & SB 1582-Relating to Workers’ Compensation
On Friday, May 5th, SB 1582, by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) was laid on the table and substituted for HB 7085 by Representative Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills). Once the substitution was made, HB 7085 was amended several times.
Senator Rob Bradley offered a strike all amendment to the House bill that would have implemented the Senate bill language into the House bill with a few changes including lowering the attorney fees cap from $250/hr. to $200/hr. However, Senator Gary Farmer (D-Fort Lauderdale) filed an amendment to Senator Bradley’s amendment implementing the entire original Senate bill language into the bill. Senator Farmer’s amendment to Senator Bradley’s amendment passed by a voice vote and the bill was then passed as amended by a vote of 21 yeas to 16 nays. HB 7085 was then sent to the House to be concurred as amended.
The House received HB 7085 and the House sponsor, Rep. Danny Burgess, moved to refuse to concur to the amended version of the bill and offered his own amendment. Rep. Burgess’s filed an amendment to the Senate amendment effectively stripping the Senate language and reinstating the original House bill language with one change, raising the cap on attorney fees from $150/hr. to $180/hr. The amendment was adopted and the amended bill was passed by a vote of 76 yeas to 43 nays. HB 7085 was then sent back to the Senate in messages to be concurred as amended by the House.
Provisions for HB 7085 now 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 $180/hour;
- 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 died in messages.
AIF SUPPORTED the House legislation as we believe it was postured to be a fix to Florida’s Workers’ Compensation system fair to every person and or entity involved.
AIF OPPOSED the Senate legislation as it did not adequately address the rising cost of workers’ compensation rates on Florida’s employers due to increased costs of attorney fees.