Tallahassee, FL – The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) recently announced that after months of traveling the state and holding meetings to discuss the current state of Florida’s workers’ compensation system, its “Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force” has said the business community has come together on a solution for workers’ compensation in the Sunshine State.
“Since last session, AIF and its business community partners have been diligently working to find a solution that would help the Florida Legislature rectify our state’s workers’ compensation system,” said Tom Feeney, president and CEO of AIF, and chair of AIF’s ‘Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force.’ “From holding town hall meetings across the state, to building a task force of esteemed members of Florida’s business community, we put our blood, sweat and tears into this collaborative effort to consider all aspects of the Workers’ Compensation Act in Florida and help restore a stable, self-executing and affordable system to care for injured workers.”
“Today, we’re proud to announce that as a result of this hard work, we are proposing a bill that will help injured workers to get healthier while relieving Florida employers from severe rate pressures and a court system that is on the fritz,” continued Feeney. “This legislation will allow Floridians to avoid unnecessary, costly and time consuming litigation and to get benefits into the hands of injured workers as soon as possible.”
“We believe that under this united business effort, this product will deal with the catastrophic threat head on that has been created by the current legal environment that is hurting the workers’ compensation system, which has worked since the 2003 reforms. We thank our many partners for their hard work on this effort and look forward to receiving input from others as we all work to repair this critical issue so that Florida can continue to be the best place to do business, as it was Governor Rick Scott’s vision from the day he took office,” concluded Feeney.
According to a 2016 Oregon study (highlighted by the National Council on Compensation Insurance), after the December 2016 14.5 percent rate increase went into effect, Florida has jumped 10 states and is ranked 23 out of 51 states in terms of workers’ compensation rates, with the primary cost driver being the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on attorneys’ fees. This is comparable to 2000 and 2002, before the 2003 reforms, where Florida was ranked first and second highest for workers’ compensation rates in the country. Following the 2003 reforms, Florida’s rates began decreasing, and in 2010, Florida had the 40th lowest workers’ compensation rates in the country.
“We simply could not sit back idly and watch Florida return to a broken workers’ compensation system,” said Bill Herrle, Florida executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and member of the ‘AIF Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force.’ “We thank AIF for putting together this great group and bringing to the table the people who are impacted by this the most. Through our research and discussions, we have determined how to fix workers’ compensation in a way that protects injured workers while maintaining rates that promote job growth and prosperity for years to come.”
“As the leader of the Health Care Provider subgroup, we felt the quicker we could have resolution of claimants to get immediate access to the health care they needed, the more invaluable it would be for them under our state’s workers’ compensation system,” said Mike Costello, business development director at Tenet Healthcare and member of the ‘AIF Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force.’ “Florida is a state like no other. We must keep up with our reputation, remain competitive and give employees the care they need at affordable prices to our employers. We cannot allow Florida to continue to drop in its standings as the recent Oregon study suggests.”
“FUBA supports the legislative effort to return stability to Florida’s workers’ compensation system,” said Tom Stahl, executive director of Florida United Businesses Association (FUBA). “FUBA believes the system should be self-executing for those employees injured on the job. We support these proposed changes to improve the system; workers should receive fair benefits and be able to return to work, at a fair cost to the businesses paying the premiums.”
“We support these changes because they focus on benefits, rather than litigation, and they protect injured employees’ privacy,” said Cam Fentriss, legislative counsel for Florida Roofing & Sheet Metal Contractors Association. “These are two important components to ensure rate stability. The workers’ compensation system exists for the benefit and obligation of the employer and employee, not as a revenue source for attorneys or others.”
“Thank you to AIF for bringing the business community together behind a proposal that gets back to the main purpose of the workers’ compensation system – protecting the rights of the employer and employee so they can work together to find a solution that best meets their needs,” said Richard Watson, chief counsel of ABC of Florida. “We need predictability and protection for both parties and these proposed changes move us much closer to that goal.”
Under this proposal:
- Employees are free to retain their own attorneys;
- The Workers’ Compensation Act will remain intact, expediting resolution of outstanding cases/issues to avoid costly and prolonged litigation process;
- Injured workers will be attended to by the appropriate medical providers quicker based on mandatory state oversight;
- Unnecessary litigation will be avoided; and
- Personal information of injured workers would not be publicized.