Governor Bush Signs Workers'
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: ALIA FARAJ
TUESDAY, JULY 15 2003
Law will increase benefits, cut fraud and improve business
Governor Jeb Bush today signed legislation that will
strengthen the plagued workers'
compensation market while visiting an Americas Homes construction company
work site. The measure, which was passed by the Florida House and Senate
in late May, will increase benefits to
the injured worker, reduce fraud in the system and increase
access to quality health care for injured workers. It will also produce a
12.5 percent cost savings to the
workers' compensation system. "
This legislation is a great
example of what can happen when the Florida Legislature works
together. Florida's workers' compensation system was crumbling under the
weight of rampant fraud and
skyrocketing insurance costs," Governor Bush said. "I applaud
the Legislature for responding to the
call and passing a bill that addresses the critical needs for
all Florida's employees and employers. This bill means real relief for
small businesses such as Americas
Homes. This company will experience an estimated 16 percent reduction
in workers' compensation insurance rates thanks to this legislation."
Joining Governor Bush at the
bill signing was Americas Homes owner Luis Diaz and his 11
employees. Also in attendance were bill co-sponsors Senators J.D.
Alexander, Jeff Atwater, and
Representatives Kim Berfield, Donald Brown, Larry Cretul and Leslie Waters. Local business and community leaders
also attended the ceremony.
Senate Bill 50A provides
changes to the workers' compensation system designed to increase
medical reimbursement fees for injured workers, increase availability and affordability of coverage for businesses and
provide greater training opportunities for those
injured on the job. These changes translate into an estimated $400 million
in annual cost savings, based on a
study by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).
Those savings include an additional estimated four percent reduction on
the oppressive construction contractor
workers' compensation insurance rates.
Before passing this legislation, Florida's workers'
compensation system ranked among the worst
in the country.
According to studies conducted by the NCCI, costs for
permanent total disability claims in
Florida were almost three times the national average, medical costs for
permanent partial claims were more
than two times higher than the national average, and medical costs
for temporary total disability were 60 percent higher than the national
Troubling statistics such as these led Governor Bush to
issue an Executive Order creating the
Commission on Workers' Compensation Reform in May 2002. He charged the commission to study and make policy
recommendations regarding the availability and affordability
of workers' compensation claims, changes necessary to reduce the cost of workers' compensation insurance and the
adequacy of benefits for injured workers.
Please see attached bullets for more information.
The goal of any workers' compensation system should be
to provide timely and effective medical
treatment and economic support to injured workers at affordable costs to employers. This bill will specifically
increase permanent partial disability benefits from 50
percent to 75 percent of the employees' compensation rate. The
legislation also increases benefits
for employees who have temporary disabilities but are still able to work at a reduced wage.
The workers' compensation
system should provide injured workers with efficient claim resolution.
This legislation addresses that
concern by eliminating the hourly attorney fee and replacing it with
the contingency fee system, which provides attorneys with proper
compensation based on the benefits
Fraudulent claims and employers that under-report or
misclassify employees corrupt the workers'
compensation system. This bill increases penalties from first and
second-degree misdemeanors to third
and second-degree felonies for fraudulently gaming the worker's compensation
system. The measure also increases the authority of the Division of Workers' Compensation to impose sanctions
against carriers and employers.
As a means to get more experienced doctors to treat
injured workers, the legislation increases
the reimbursement schedule for certain specialty doctors and surgical
physicians. The bill also includes more
stringent reviews to ensure doctors are not unnecessarily
treating patients for personal financial gain.
Floridians deserve to work in the safest workplaces
possible. To that end, this legislation continues
the current discount for employers that maintain a qualified workplace
safety program as well as requires
all employees covered under a Joint Underwriting Association
Policy to go through a safety at the workplace program.