NCCI Seeks to Decrease Workers’ Compensation Rates

Florida Record, September 16, 2019

TALLAHASSEE — The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has filed a proposed rate drop for workers’ compensation rates with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation for the third year in a row.

Florida Chamber of Commerce director of business, economic development and innovation policy Carolyn Johnson, however, said a number of factors are preventing further rate decreases.

“While workers’ comp rates will decrease for now, NCCI has made it clear that Florida Supreme Court decisions are exerting upward pressure on system costs. Workers’ comp carriers are experiencing increases in attorney fees, litigated claims are taking longer and generally costing more,” Johnson said in a statement provided to The Florida Record.

“These factors have reduced the potential further rate decrease that could have been provided to job creators.” 

Click here to read the entire article in the Florida Record.

Florida House Passes Pro-Worker, Pro-Business Workers’ Comp Legislation

Tallahassee (April 19, 2017) – The Florida Chamber of Commerce today applauds the Florida House of Representatives for taking a major step toward addressing much-needed reforms to Florida’s broken workers’ compensation system by passing HB 7085, sponsored by Rep. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills).

“For almost a year, attorneys have received a payday on the backs of injured workers, receiving attorney fees in some instances of $400 an hour,” said CAROLYN JOHNSON, Director of Business, Economic Development and Innovation Policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “The Florida Chamber commends Chairman Burgess and House leadership for their work on reining in out-of-control attorney fees, preventing unnecessary litigation and helping injured workers get back to work quickly.”

This Florida Chamber-Backed Bill Will:

  • Realign the amount of attorney fees to the amount secured for the injured workers,
  • Place a cap on attorney fees of $150 per hour,
  • Encourage affected employees to avoid drawn-out court proceedings, and
  • Reduce rates for job creators.

Florida’s workers’ comp system suffered a major blow in 2016 after the state Supreme Court issued a series of rulings that threw out portions of the system, resulting in a workers’ comp rate increase of 14.5 percent, or $1.5 billion, beginning Dec. 1. This rate hike was not accompanied by additional benefits for injured workers, but instead meant additional income to attorneys.

HB 7085 now travels to the Florida Senate for legislative action. The Florida Chamber looks forward to working with the members of the Senate to enact workers’ comp legislation that supports jobs for Florida’s families and strengthens our state’s economic competitiveness.

 

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Calling on Lawmakers to Protect Florida Consumers from AOB Abuse in Florida

 

WATCH video from the press conference.

Consumer Protection Coalition: “Time to Act on AOB Fraud & Abuse is Today”

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (April 6, 2017) – In front of the Florida House Chamber, the Consumer Protection Coalition, a  broad-based group of business leaders, consumer advocates, real estate agents, construction contractors, insurance agents and insurance trade groups, today called on Florida lawmakers to protect Florida consumers and pass meaningful reforms to end Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse in the Sunshine State.

 

“We are halfway through the 2017 Legislative Session, and it appears another year may pass without meaningful reforms to end AOB abuse in Florida,” said DULCE SUAREZ-RESNICK, independent insurance agent in Miami and member of the Latin American Association of Insurance Agents.  “Make no mistake: If the Legislature fails to address the growing cancer of AOB for a fifth straight year, Florida’s hardworking families are the ones that will lose.  Our leaders have crystal clear evidence that AOB fraud and abuse is threatening the affordability of homeownership for average Floridians.  For lower-income families and those on fixed incomes, it could literally put the dream of homeownership out of reach.”

 

In Miami-Dade County, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens) projects that without AOB reforms, the average premium for homeowners will skyrocket from $9,847 this year to $15,859 by 2022.  An increase of more than $6,000 in five years.

 

“At the beginning of the year, Citizens announced reining in out-of-control lawsuits over water damage claims and AOB abuse were a top legislative priority,” said BARRY GILWAY, president and CEO of Citizens.  “And, just a week ago, Citizens reported a net loss of more than $27 million for 2016 – our first annual loss in 11 years.  The reason is the unjustifiable explosion of water loss claims we are facing, AOB abuse and lawsuits that are seriously eroding our bottom line.”

 

Ninety-six percent of all litigation Citizens faces is coming from the tri-county area of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.  In just the past three and a half years, Citizens has seen the average severity, or payout, from each litigated water claim rise from $10,000 to $20,000.  In 2011, just 12 percent of the claims Citizens received went into litigation.  By 2015, 45 percent have been litigated.

 

“A cottage industry of trial attorney firms, often partnering with a relatively small group of home repair vendors, are driving the vast majority of lawsuits against Citizens,” said GILWAY.  “A year ago, we were able to provide rate decreases to most of our customers across the state.  This year, 84 percent of our policyholders will see rate increases, because of this water damage claims and AOB litigation phenomenon.  Without significant statutory reforms, Citizens will be forced to pass these costs on to our customers in the form of higher rates for the foreseeable future.”

 

“I’ve seen first-hand the AOB abuse that’s happening in our neighborhoods and reform is urgently needed,” said RALPH DAVIS, local contractor and president of Streamline Roofing & Construction.  “AOB fraud and abuse is driving up the costs of home repairs and is hurting homeowners who are often unaware of the risks they face when they sign an AOB.  It’s hurting the reputation of our industry and all of the good roofing firms and other good contractors who don’t use AOBS and who want to stop the bad behavior.”

 

“Our legislators have heard testimony of plumbers getting paid kick-backs of as much as $2,500 to get a water remediation firm in the door to convince a homeowner to sign an AOB,” said DAVIS.  “That’s just plain wrong.  Florida homeowners don’t need to sign an AOB with a contractor to get repairs done, and roofers and other contractors don’t need AOBs to get paid.  The system that has been in place for years – having homeowners direct their insurers to pay us under their policies – has worked.  As a roofer who prides himself in making an honest dollar for an honest day’s work, I am calling on members of the House and Senate to step up and protect Florida consumers from AOB fraud and abuse.”

 

“As a member of the Florida Realtors, I know well that for most Floridians, their home is their largest investment,” said MARILYN PEARSON-ADAMS, vice chair of public policy for the Florida Realtors.  “Home ownership is still the key to the American dream and is vital to building strong communities. Floridians on fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable to increases in the ancillary costs of owning a home, such as property taxes, insurance and maintenance.  That’s why Florida Realtors is so concerned about AOB fraud and abuse, and is standing with the Consumer Protection Coalition in calling for legislative reform now.”

 

As an example relating to the impact of AOB abuse on middle-class families, state estimates show that in Palm Beach, coverage for a home valued at $155,000 will rise from $2,210 this year to $3,559 in 2022 without reform. In Broward, that premium would jump from $2,390 to $3,850.

 

“It is heartbreaking to see hardworking families scrimp and save to be able to qualify for a mortgage only to learn that these overhead costs end up busting-the-budget,” said PEARSON-ADAMS.  “These premium increases, mostly due to AOB scams, are already putting homeownership further out of reach for many families in South Florida and will start to impact families in other areas of the state without prompt legislative action.  Florida’s realtors, who help people achieve dreams and help fuel our state’s economy, are urging the Legislature to act.”

 

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has warned the Florida Legislature for five years about AOB fraud and abuse.  The time to act is clear:

  • Citizens has posted its first net loss in a decade, largely because of this problem;
  • The Florida Justice Reform Institute has reported that from 2010 to 2016 alone, the number of AOB lawsuits has skyrocketed from about 25,000 to over 100,000 – an increase of 300 percent; and
  • Worst of all, AOB fraud and abuse is threatening the affordability of home ownership for consumers insured by both Citizens and private insurers.

 

“Today, the Consumer Protection Coalition is delivering nearly 2,000 petitions signed by people across the state to our Senate and House leaders,” said CAROLYN JOHNSON, director of business, economic development and innovation policy with the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “These are real Floridians who want real reform on AOB fraud and abuse, and they want it now.  Our coalition is calling on Senate and House leaders to allow hearings on bills that we strongly believe will offer the best protection to homeowners and get at the heart of the AOB problem.”

 

“There is no question one-way attorney fees are key to what’s fueling this explosion of AOB litigation,” said JOHNSON.  “Plain and simple, we believe the right to one-way attorney fees should remain with the homeowner – and not be transferred to the water remediation firm, roofer or plumber who solicited an AOB from an unknowing homeowner.  The bottom line is this: If Senate and House members do not come together to pass meaningful AOB reforms this session, the AOB cottage industry will fleece homeowners even more and laugh all the way to the bank.  Expect even more water damage claims. Expect even more lawsuits.  And expect even more pain for the constituents or lawmakers, who will hand over their hard-earned dollars because of inaction. The time to act on AOB fraud and abuse is today.”

 

Also attending the press conference today were Representative Rene Plasencia and Office of Insurance Regulation Commissioner David Altmaier.

In addition to the press conference held today, the Consumer Protection Coalition recently hit the airwaves with a video and radio spot.

For more information on the Consumer Protection Coalition, please visit FightFraud.today, follow @CPC_FL and like @ConsumerProtectionCoalition.

 

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Workers’ Comp Rate Goes Into Effect

Total Costs Resulting From Court Rulings to Top $1.5 Billion

Today, December 1, 2016, workers’ compensation rates will increase by 14.5 percent for all new and renewal policies, an increase which equates essentially to a $1.5 billion transfer of wealth from Florida businesses to trial lawyers the Florida Chamber of Commerce said.

“Today, job creators across Florida are opening their doors and facing a $1.5 billion tab that is not about employee safety or protecting workers, but about increasing compensation for plaintiff trial lawyers,” said CAROLYN JOHNSON, Director of Business, Economic Development & Innovation Policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, a Leon Circuit Court judge voided the 14.5 percent rate increase under the grounds that the National Council on Compensation Insurance and the Office of Insurance Regulation did not follow the requirements of the “Sunshine Law.” This decision has since been appealed, meaning the rate increase will take effect today.

“Many businesses are telling us they will be forced to delay hiring, or even cut existing jobs, in order to cover this increase in their premiums,” said JOHNSON. “A rate like this puts Florida’s competitiveness and job creation directly at risk.”

According to research from a Florida Chamber Workers’ Compensation Task Force survey, of the businesses impacted by the rate increase, 90 percent said the impact is significant. An overwhelming 96 percent of those surveyed believe that the Florida Legislature should take action to remedy the Supreme Court decisions that resulted in a 14.5 percent increase.

This $1.5 billion increase is the result of two Florida Supreme Court decisions earlier this year declaring portions of Florida’s workers’ comp system unconstitutional. In one case in particular, the plaintiff argued that the plaintiff trial lawyer should receive $38,000 in attorney fees for a case in which the injured worker was awarded only $800. That’s $800 for the injured worker and $38,000 for the trial lawyer. This accounts for nearly two-thirds of the rate increase. And although the rate officially increases today, since the decision in April, the number of lawsuits and trial lawyer pay-days have already increased.

The Florida Chamber has a long history of helping to keep Florida’s workers’ comp system working. As a result, workers’ comp rates were lowered by more than 60 percent in the last 13 years, and injured workers returned to work 10 days faster. Those efforts continue today with the Florida Chamber’s Workers’ Compensation Task Force, which is working to secure a legislative fix.

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