Workers’ Compensation: The Eye of the Storm

By: Carolyn Johnson

Did You Know Floridians Have Some of the Highest Workers’ Comp Rates in the Southeast?

The Florida Chamber of Commerce recognizes that Florida’s high workers’ compensation rates equates to a $1.5 billion impact to Florida’s business community and negatively impacts Florida’s competitiveness. That’s why workers’ comp reform will remain a top legislative priority.

Yesterday, lawmakers sitting on the Florida House Commerce Committee addressed this issue. Lawmakers asked a series of industry experts to speak about the current workers’ comp system and whether there’s data to show that Florida Supreme Court decisions from last year have resulted in an increased number of claims and overall costs to job creators.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), which is the rating agency for the majority of insurance carriers in Florida, pointed out that the proposed 9.3 percent rate decrease does not yet take into account the fallout from these court decisions. Jeff Eddinger, speaking on behalf of NCCI, said the rate decrease is solely the result of increased safety in the workplace prior to the court decisions, and that there’s room for additional savings.

“If it weren’t for the court decisions, rates would be going down 20 percent instead of 9 percent,” Eddinger said.

Deputy Chief Judge David Langham of the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims, the judges that oversee workers’ comp claims, also spoke. Langham pointed to data that showed how hourly attorney fees have increased by $49.5 million, or 191 percent compared to 2016 when the Castellanos decision was handed down by the Florida Supreme Court overturning attorney fee reforms led by the Florida Chamber. Langham also said he expects additional “significant” increases over time after the court decision, which will further drive up rates.

Because of the rate decrease, some are pointing out that attorney fees-focused workers’ comp reforms are unlikely this year, even though they believe comprehensive workers’ comp reforms will be necessary in the future.

“It’s an issue we will have to deal with at some point because I don’t think the rates are going to continue to go down,” said House Commerce Chairman Jim Boyd in interviews with reporters yesterday.

The Florida Chamber believes a competitive and predictable workers’ comp system that protects workers and job creators is vital to making Florida more competitive. Despite slowing momentum to seek reforms among some in the Capitol, hourly attorney fees will continue to increase and push workers’ comp rates higher.

The Florida Chamber remains committed to seeking workers’ comp reforms and making sure your voices are heard.

Register Today for the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Insurance Summit

Join Florida’s legislative leaders, insurance executives, and political insiders to address workers’ compensation, Assignment of Benefits, CAT Fund and other crucial issues facing insurers, business leaders and consumers. Register today for the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Insurance Summit.