How Will Florida Worker’s Compensation Insurance Rates and Coverage Be Affected in 2018?

state of florida.

Much has been written about the Florida 2017 legislative session and the issues surrounding workers’ compensation insurance. Attention has been largely focused on the insurance rate rising after two Florida Supreme Court decisions found certain aspects of the workers’ compensation statutes unconstitutional as to 3 items:

  • The mandatory fee schedule to determine attorney fees set out in Section 440.34 F.S, was a violation of due process under the FL and US Constitution and preempted a reasonable test, See Bradley Westphal v. City of St Petersburg
  • The 104-week statutory limitation on temporary total disability set out in Section 440.34 F.S. and the resulting lack of clarification as to the application of the previous 260-week limitation. See Castellanos vs. Next Door Company
  • And, the updates to the Florida Workers Compensation Health Care Provider Reimbursement Manual which raised the costs which was enacted in SB 1420

The National Council on Compensation Insurance NCCI anticipated an increase in the sums to be spent on attorney fees in the aftermath, which resulted in NCCI recommending a rate hike of 19.6 %. Other states are experiencing rate hikes including Iowa by 2.2%, South Carolina by 2.5%, California by 2.3%, and New York by 9.3% after constitutional challenges and pushes for reform. However, none were as large as the rate increase.in Florida.

Florida’s requested increase was partially approved by the Office of Insurance Regulation, contingent upon NCCI amending its filing to lower the rate to 14.9%, which was amended and subsequently approved, and that rate became effective on 12/16/2016.

documents

2018 Anticipated Legislative Action

The perception frequently discussed in the media focused on attorney’s fees as the primary factors that drove the workers compensation insurance rates up. Legislative action to cap attorney’s fees that would pass constitutional muster was earnestly anticipated but did not come to fruition in 2017.

Although frustrating to some, the inability to enact new legislation so quickly was probably unavoidable and actually gave the legislature time to digest all of the ramifications and devise comprehensive legislation that will address the worker’s compensation associated issues as a whole; including the erosion of injured workers’ rights.

New legislation should incorporate the rulings by the Supreme Court of Florida, in both Castellanos v. Next Door Company, Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, or could deviate and take an entirely different approach.

In another case, Miles v. City of Edgewater, which did not appear to be considered is the rate hike recommendation. The 1st DCA found that the statute prohibiting claimants from paying their own lawyers unconstitutional, and established the injured worker’s right to obtain counsel with personal funds or someone else’s and the claimant’s right to contract. The legislature can choose to not initiate legislation to remove or repeal the statute and it might remain of record but is still unconstitutional.

The mixture of brewing issues are set to congeal in the 2018 legislative session after the NCCI and the Office of Insurance Regulation recommends the new rate of insurance for 2018. Nothing of significance was passed during the 2017 legislative session. NCCI historically makes its recommendation for the coming year’s rate well ahead of time, in order to inform the public and employers and garner support for the rate hike. The recommendation was made in May of 2016 for the 2017 year, and actually took effect in December, 2016.

Inherent flaws in the Florida Worker’s Compensation system

Workers compensation in Florida has historically been a flawed system. Previous major reforms have taken place in 1979 and 2003. The insurance rates had fallen since 2003 until 2016. However, Pro Publica and NPR have shown that the current system continues to have issues which undermine fair treatment for the injured worker despite past reforms:

  • Florida has cut benefits to its most severely disabled workers by 65 percent since 1994
  • Florida has chopped compensation for workers with permanent partial disabilities by at least 20% since 2009
  • Florida cuts off workers compensation benefits at or near retirement age.
  • Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security funds suffer losses due to the retirement age cutoff of works compensation benefits with Florida having a high percentage of citizens who are older than SS retirement age.

The rate recommendations from NCCI for 2018 will most likely be highly scrutinized because of all the negative publicity in 2016. NCCI, together with the Office of Insurance Regulation, was sued by Mr. Fee regarding constitutional issues for failing to conduct the “Committee Meetings” to arrive at a recommendation for the 2017 workers compensation insurance rate hike. The trial court held that such meetings are a delegation of a government function and are required to be held in the “sunshine” where interested parties can take part. But the appeals court did not agree and reversed the trial court. Also In this instance NCCI delegated the process to one lone actuarial expert; which resulted in intense criticism of that method. In any event the Office of Insurance Regulation proceeded to hold open public meetings after being sued, even though they were not Court ordered to do so. As a result, an open meeting process appears likely in 2018. Public awareness and participation should generate more negotiation and compromise on the rates between the parties.

gavel and law book.

Possible Changes to the Workers Comp Insurance Rate and Other Issues

It is probable, based on the bills introduced in the 2017 legislative session, that there will be an agreed-upon bill regarding attorney’s fees at some point during this next session. Some legislative members felt that an agreement was close during the 2017 session. Such a bill is likely to include a deviation defined by statute for reasonable attorney’s fees and a cap somewhere in the range between the two proposed bills in 2017 of $150.00 – $250.00 or slightly higher, which is below the average hourly rate of attorneys in most civil cases. Expect to also see a bill which codifies and reinstates the previous statutory scheme for temporary total disability extension back to 260 weeks.

There is also a possibility the State will see movement towards reform for workers as the court in the wild card case, Miles, found the statute criminalizing attorneys’ acceptance of fees from an injured worker or someone on his behalf unconstitutional. The statute might be abolished and an amended statute would need to be drafted to allow the injured worker or someone on his behalf to pay the client fees.

There are many ethical concerns when accepting fees for a client from a third party which the Florida Bar has already addressed within the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. These rules can be utilized and relied on when accepting pay from a source other than the client. The Court found the statute unconstitutional under both the State and US Constitution which prohibited lawyers from accepting a fee directly from their client or a person or entity on their behalf and criminalized acceptance of fees. Since no appeal was taken, and no statute has been passed, there is no clarification as to how this will be addressed in the future.

Lawyers have always fought against social injustice in America and may well take an appropriate and ripe case where a matter of great public importance such as the reduction in benefits upon retirement, where a client or someone else may be footing the bill, or even on a pro bono basis and use this case to test how fees will be approved.

The Miles court pointed out the contrast in this scenario where Workers’ Compensation Insurance carrier attorneys are free to contract their fee rate with an insurance carrier and can choose to not accept the case at the rate offered if they feel it is unreasonable, but injured workers have no legal recourse other than workers compensation, and their lawyers must accept what the state deems to be reasonable under the statutory scheme.

The court held that the attorney fees set out in the statutes are not reasonable, not because the lawyers are being underpaid but because it undermines the ability of the injured worker to obtain competent legal representation. And the FL Supreme Court also addressed the unreasonableness of the attorney’s fees in the Westphal case.

One last change in the law was made in 2017 when the legislature passed Senate Bill 1008 establishing public records exemption and a right to privacy for personal identifying information of a deceased or injured worker contained in workers compensation records held by the Department of Financial Services.

Although the bill specifically stated that Public Records ROI (Request for Information) have resulted in unwanted solicitation (by attorneys) of injured workers and/or or their families; this statement is totally unnecessary as the Florida Bar has always had the authority to sanction an attorney for such conduct under the rules regulating the Florida Bar.

This bill was codified at Section 440.1851 F.S. and it does create a worker’s right to privacy and protects his or her personal identifying information and affords greater protection from the public and the media, not just attorneys.

All of these factors may coalesce by the end of the 2018 legislative session and may be the impetus to bring about systematic reform. The court has paved the way to reach new laws that result in lawyers receiving a fair fee for representation, an increase in the length of time a worker may receive temporary total disability; regulation of rising medical costs and have the impetus to allow lawyers to be able to take on far-reaching issues which further improve the system, aid the worker and their dependents and ultimately the public.

Unfortunately, the resignation of Jeff Atwater as CFO of Florida, who oversees the Office of Insurance Regulation, and the vacancy left by his absence, may curtail meaningful legislation. But that may not deter the legislature as the U.S Supreme Court signaled that the entire statutory scheme is salvageable with the modifications noted by the Florida State Courts when it declined to hear Daniel Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital.

So it appears the time is ripe for the 2018 session to be the climax to these events and settle Florida workers compensation landscape for a few years in the foreseeable future.

Satanic Nativity Display Horrifies Boca Raton Residents

the defaced satanic pentagram.

Residents of Boca Raton say a Nativity scene in Sanborn Square has been defiled by a Statanic display set up close by.

Sanborn Square is known as a designated free-speech area, but many residents are horrified the city allowed this.

The City of Boca Raton approved a permit for the display and the Freedom From Religion group provided the display.

The nearly life-sized Nativity scene was serene, but the satanic display, complete with red pentagram and depiction of satan was defaced during the night by someone spraying silver paint over parts of it, mostly the text.

Church leaders were upset and an interfaith group erected a large sign decrying the use of satanic symbols in the park. It said “The use of satanic symbols is offensive and harmful to our community’s well-being.” It was signed by 14 reverends, two rabbis and Dr. Bassem Alhalabi, a muslim professor.

Boca Raton Mayor,Susan Haynie, speaking to a Palm Beach Post reporter, said that although she found the satanic display offensive, freedom of speech allows for many points of view.

“… the same constitutional right to freedom of speech that allows the church to display the nativity scene also allows for this objectionable symbol.” [Palm Beach Post]

@HenryandTom Featured Book by Wid Bastian on the Will Roberts Weekly Telegram Radio show

Every so often a great read comes along that just makes you smile. According to the numerous five star reviews posted on its Amazon book page, Henry and Tom brings joy to everyone who reads it. When you download Henry and Tom you’ll treat yourself to something that will make you happy for hours for less than the price of a Grande Latte at Starbucks.

Co-author Wid Bastian was a guest last week on Will Roberts’ Weekly Telegram radio show. He explained how he met the book’s co-author, Dr. Michael Atkins, a Washington D.C. based marine biologist and how together they wrote a book that directly addresses the topic of do animals have emotions. Wid and Michael argue that whales not only have emotions, they are also highly intelligent and have complex social lives. Henry and Tom makes you think twice about not only the immorality of killing any whale, but also the cruelty of jailing them in places like Sea World or putting dolphins on display at luxury hotels for the amusement of human guests.

Henry-and-Tom-Cover
Henry and Tom is a story about a man bonding with a whale and their great adventure together across the Pacific. The other aspect of the novel that readers find compelling is the story of a successful blended family. Divorce can be brutal on kids. In Henry and Tom, loving parents do their best to put their children’s needs first. What a great example of how to do a difficult thing the right way.

For a limited time, Henry and Tom the eBook can be downloaded for only $2.99. For sure that price is good for the book’s official debut on November 28th. You can download Henry and Tom on its Amazon book page. More information and book reviews can be found at henryandtom.com.

As one Amazon reviewer put it, “Henry and Tom is an extraordinary story of love and cooperation between a man and a whale… It deals with marriage and family, life crises, finding one’s self – personal development and life in the real world in addition to the story with the whale… It’s a deep and very moving story. Beautifully written and well produced. I highly recommend it.”

Modernizing Medicine Raises $12 Million Capital

Modernizing Medicine, creator of the Electronic Medical Assistant, a specialty-specific EMR app in the cloud, raised $12 million in capital.

The money came as a combination of equity capital and a senior bank debt. The funding is expected to accelerate company growth in existing markets, as well as launch them into new specialty-specific verticals and continue product innovation.

Leading the equity round was Pentland Group plc, and many Modernizing Medicine customers.

Modernizing Medicine says its user-friendly Electronic Medical Assistant adapts to each healthcare provider’s unique style of practice, integrating seamlessly into the practice’s workflow. The system is seen as a physician time saver, with its built-in medical knowledge, keyboard-less entry and ability to generate medical history in seconds. The company says notes, billing, prescriptions, patient handouts and encounter forms are all included in the Assistant, which runs as a native iPad application, or on any web-enabled Mac or PC.

“When I was first introduced to EMA, I could see right away that it was different from all of the other EMRs on the market. From my early conversations with Dan and Michael, I realized that not only was EMA an excellent product, but that the team behind it and their growth strategy was right on the mark,” said David F. Jaffe, MD and Modernizing Medicine customer and investor. “I jumped on board quickly as a practitioner and as an investor in the company’s Series A round of funding and have been delighted to watch Modernizing Medicine grow. When the opportunity to increase my investment in the company by contributing to the Series B round of funding surfaced, it was a no brainer for me. EMA is awesome and will change any physician’s practice for the better.”

Physicians in the plastics, orthopedics and ENT markets also participated in the offering as investors and look forward to using EMA when it launches in their specialty-specific verticals.

“I was absolutely impressed with Modernizing Medicine’s ability to create EMA Dermatology and effectively capture over 12% of the dermatology market in such a short time,” said Dr. Young Cho, MD, EMA Plastic Surgery beta tester and Modernizing Medicine investor who invested prior to the product’s launch in October. “Modernizing Medicine is truly changing the way dermatologists practice, saving them both time and energy. I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of EMA Plastic Surgery, and I’m confident they’re going to be able to provide plastic surgeons with the same outstanding product they did for dermatology and other specialties.”

Having current and future customers as investors is a sign that the company really is doing something right.

If You Don’t Vote, Shush Up!

I am getting more emails from Floridians and folks I know are stopping me in stores to declare what they think about the way the country is being run more than ever before this election season. It’s almost like candidates came up with this new idea to hire their voters and send them around to be their interactive political signs. However, they are not always easy to spot because the screaming and shoving has extended beyond those wearing colonial clothes. No longer can a three-point hat act like a warning beacon.

Here is where it is different in this election. There was a time when someone would give you their opinion and IF you did not like it, you could say, “Hey, I don’t agree with you,” and both people would stop talking about that subject; they could agree to disagree. This is why there has been a standing rule among friends … don’t talk politics and religion, unless you know you share the same views, or you can remain civil. However, “No means No” works in this kind of situation, or so it should.

Note Even Registered?

Here’s an additional rub. Most of the time when I have a conversation with folks about politics where they have strong opinions, they are NOT even registered to VOTE and in most cases they won’t even vote. I’m not going to go into the reasons I have heard for this countrywide disease. I don’t like to harbor excuses, as Americans we just like action.

Of course the media circus doesn’t help. I read the stories written by the reporters for the facts they want us to know. Then I read the blogs to see what the truth of the matter is about what the people think. Because that is the key to the solution, what people outside the media think.

Sometimes it makes me sad when I read what folks write back to other folks. Four letter words that have nothing to do with solving anything. The only 4 letter word we want right now is VOTE.

Remember, YOU wanted to stand behind that party the day you decided to register that way. The definition of why you are the party you are is based on the fact that you believe in what the PARTY stands for, through thick and thin, that’s why you bought the T-shirt, bummer sticker, etc… You have to believe that the person picked to represent that party holds the same values, beliefs, and goals for our country than you do. If you are not happy with either party, start your own, but then you run the risk of becoming what you loath, a politician.

Will Rogers On Politics

Will Rogers used to say, (Paraphrasing) “If politics was honest, it would not be politics.” History has shown how effective starting your own party has been, unless it is a tailgating party. Maybe the politicians would have been better off throwing Town hall Tailgating parties instead of campaign rallies. We would get fed, pumped up and in the end we could leave the politicians to clean up all the litter.

But all kidding aside, if our country’s government does not work for you, then you can move to a country where they hold your beliefs and will allow you to live in the same freedom we have here in the USA. But good luck on that one.

Things Are Bad, But You’re Not Voting?

I hear a lot of folks talk about how bad things are and in the same breath they say they will not vote based on who the 2 candidates are. I can only assume this must mean you already have your bags packed and your plane ticket in hand to move to that other country you think works better than the USA. I will tell you though that they might ask you to vote as well. Only they might not barrage you with Campaign ads to get your vote, more a barrage of bullets and bullying. NOT voting is not a protest, but it is simply ignorant, and selfish.

PLEASE don’t take what I am saying wrong, take it as a challenge to look deep inside your RED, white (Not as in the race of people) and BLUE heart and figure what you benefit by not voting. Is it … The right to object at a later date and say “I told you so,” and then not have a way of changing things because you just don’t participate when folks don’t agree with you.

Our country is made up of standing behind somebody, otherwise we stand-alone. Trust me, this trickles over to your personal life. PLEASE take a look and see what you can find in the candidate that is finally picked, that moves even ONE thing in the direction we all want … FORWARD.

Get Out And Vote!

I have spent the last few days telling folks that they must get out and vote. However, I don’t know how folks could forget. I have had 20 robo calls in the last 4 hours. I feel like a pizza parlor. I tried to talk to some of these robo people, but they are … robo … people. It is very frustrating when some of the same people (Robots) call you over and over and you can’t talk to them. They say that in advertising it takes 9 times to drive home the point and I say it only takes 3 to drive you crazy.

Election Day is a great day to be American, so proudly show it off… Oh, if you want to pick these Fine Americans out of a crowd, it’s easy. They are the ones with a sticker proudly displayed on their chest that says… I VOTED! The others that didn’t VOTE will be sitting quietly on the sidelines with their mouths closed for the next 4 years, right? Right?

Hey folks my new book is OUT! A Crackpot’s Potshot at American Politics
by Will Roberts
Will Roberts has retained the wit and country mannerisms of Will Rogers, both on stage and in his writings. The daily articles on world events and politics are as typical of our times as Rogers’s daily sayings and Sunday articles of his day. I know you will enjoy the way Roberts has kept the legacy of a great journalist, skilled roper, actor, and an American icon in his writings today.Doris Coke Lane Meyer, Grand-niece of Will Rogers
152 pages – $11.99 (paperback)

“In this modern day and age America’s newest slogan is: Mom, apple pie and high-speed Internet. They say you can live two weeks without food, a day or so without water but take someone’s smart phone away, and that person won’t last five minutes.” – Will Roberts

Will Roberts is a trick roper and cowboy humorist, who pays tribute to Will Rogers, America’s cowboy, with a wit as quick as his rope.
“The Good Will Tour”
www.WillRogersUSA.com
1-866-381-Will (9455)
Direct# 310-228-7105
Fax# 800-844-4259
“All I Know Is What Little I Read On The Internet!”

This story was first published at NewsBlaze “VOTE Or Sush Up!

1 2 3 9