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Politics

Office of Insurance Regulation to Florida Workers: Sorry, No Break for You

November 29, 2016 - 6:30pm
Bill Herrle and Mark Touby
Bill Herrle and Mark Touby

To virtually no one's surprise, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation vowed Tuesday to appeal a circuit judge's ruling that would block a 14.5 percent increase in workers' compensation insurance rates. 

The office filed a notice of appeal. That will allow the rate increase to start taking effect Thursday as originally planned. 

Though Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers issued an order to block the increase, appeals by state agencies typically lead to legal stays of such orders, the News Service of Florida reported. "The effect would be that the rate increase would move forward while the appeal is pending," wrote NSF.

“We urged Florida businesses not to be fooled by this classic trial lawyer delay tactic," said Edie Ousley, vice president of public affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "Putting job creators and injured workers first is vital to keeping Florida’s workers’ compensation system working, and therefore it’s incumbent on the Florida Legislature to reform the system and create stability and predictability in so that job creators aren’t forced to choose between hiring another employee or paying higher workers’ comp rates.”

A disgruntled Bill Herrle, NFIB/Florida executive director, said, “We didn’t for a second believe the trial lawyers were pursuing this case to protect small business owners from a rate hike; and today we can see that it didn’t."

“What’s clear is the trial lawyers, who are the opponents of the workers’ comp attorney fee cap, brought this case in an attempt to conceal the fees they are charging," Herrle said. "They wish to discredit the insurance commissioner’s findings that attorneys’ fees, which will grow by hundreds of millions next year alone, are driving increased workers’ comp costs."

Gievers issued a 73-page ruling Wednesday that said the state's Sunshine Law had been violated during deliberations about the rate hike. Gievers ruled, in part, that the National Council on Compensation Insurance -- an organization that files rate proposals for the insurance industry -- did not comply with legal requirements about holding public meetings during its deliberations on the hike. 

She also wrote NCCI held closed-door meetings with staff members of the Office of Insurance Regulation. The ruling came only eight days before the effective date of the rate hike, which had been approved in October by regulators. The increase, which has been closely watched by business and legal groups, stems largely from two Florida Supreme Court rulings this year that found parts of the workers' compensation system unconstitutional. As NSF reported, NCCI also said last week that it would appeal Gievers' ruling.

Mark Touby, president of Florida Workers' Advocates, also issued a statement Tuesday. “Today, Florida’s businesses were delivered a heavy, dirty lump of coal for the holidays while the giant insurance industry found a stocking stuffed with a whopping spike in workers’ compensation insurance premiums," he said.

"Though a circuit court judge emphatically ruled last week that insurance special interests actively broke Florida law, they are being rewarded now by getting to line their pockets with unwarranted profits.”
 
Touby continued, “Florida businesses should rightfully point a finger of blame to this holiday season’s ‘Grinch,’ the insurance industry, which is now moving forward with its secretly-hatched plan to cost businesses more money."

Unfortunately, some of the groups that purport to represent small businesses have blinders on to the ridiculous excess profits insurance companies have enjoyed – or perhaps they just can’t see because the transparency in rate-making is non-existent. Less than a week after Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers rejected a workers’ compensation rate increase because it violated Florida’s cherished Sunshine Law, the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) announced it will appeal that decision, temporarily allowing the increase to take effect.”
 
“The workers’ comp system is supposed to benefit two groups – injured workers and the businesses that employ them. Judge Gievers’ decision protected both their interests, but an appeal only serves the interests of the insurance companies who orchestrated the rate increase in the first place. Don’t blame the lawyers and don’t blame the courts. Take off the blinders and see that the fox is guarding the hen house.”
 
“We are confident that the judge’s thoughtful, well-reasoned ruling will be upheld on appeal. But in the meantime, Florida businesses will be forced to pay unnecessarily high premiums, while workers’ comp insurance companies enjoy this early – and undeserved – mammoth present.”

Said Herrle, "Trial lawyers: Please don’t help us anymore. We know what your real interests are, and they are in polar opposition to small business owners.”

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmth

Comments

The insurance industry is the MOST successful organized crime entity in history. Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Carlo Gambino, John Gotti ALL small change players compared to the penultimate white collar Murder Inc. known as insurance executives.

Folks don't get caught in the smoke of insurance industry versus trial lawyers. There is only one thing that everyone should be looking at: TRANSPARENCY!!, or better stated the lack thereof. Judge Gievers' decision in only about transparency in rate making, especially in Florida where it is a single rate system. What is NCCI and the OIR so afraid of that they are so dearly hiding? They had every opportunity to conduct their business in the sunshine like the law requires, and the knowingly ignored the law. What is so wrong with transparency when you are doing things right? Time will tell but when you are hiding something it is for a reason. Given this open willingness to ignore the law and hide the ball, every Florida employer should be demanding that the books be opened and reveal the truth of what is being factored in to rate making.

So a $35,000 fee for an $800. benefit is an outrage? What about a $250,000. fee for a $600. Thermogram? See. State Farm v. Palma, # DCA. Defendant insurance companies pick their fights and when they lose they cry foul. But here's a fact that should make the attorney's in Fee v. OIR ask the 1 DCA to have all the excess premiums collected after 12.1.16 put into the court registry until the case ends. Why? Because our wonderful legislature in 2013 amended the insurance code to allow workers' comp. carriers (and no others) keep any excess profits instead of the usual practice of refunding them.

Mr. Herrle, and those buying into his flawed reasoning, fail to recognize it's the work comp carrier/adjusters that drive the litigation bus. An injured worker doesn't need a work comp attorney until he or she is wrongly denied a legitimate benefit by the carrier. When injured workers are provided timely medical treatment by qualified and concerned doctors, they can get better and go back to work. Employee wins, Employer wins, and no attorney fees are paid to defense attorneys or a plaintiff lawyer. Voila! Problem solved. What a novel idea! Insurance companies can control the legal costs by following the laws and taking care of injured workers! They should all try it some time. That's how to put the work comp attorneys out of business.

If you saw the nonsense that work comp adjusters see on a daily basis you would quickly change your tune. The system is full of fraud inspired by secondary gain. Ask any doctor if there is a difference in the recovery time of a comp patient vs private pay. There are many claimant attorneys that do the right thing but are overshadowed by greedy ones who suck all the money out of the system.

As a business owner who pays insurance premiums, I am appalled at the government's intention to appeal this judge's well-reasoned ruling. It seems obvious that tour own government allowed he insurance industry to run amuck, doing whatever it decided was needed, while no one was allowed to question motives, alleged facts and alleged figures. If there is no one watching over the interests of all business owners in maintaining workers' compensation premiums at affordable levels, the only avenue remaining was the judiciary. I am grateful for lawyers that do not represent me who have stepped forward to protect the interests of all business owners and their employees from the greedy agenda that appears to be the insurance industry's motive. Thank you!

As a business owner who pays insurance premiums, I am appalled at the government's intention to appeal this judge's well-reasoned ruling. It seems obvious that tour own government allowed he insurance industry to run amuck, doing whatever it decided was needed, while no one was allowed to question motives, alleged facts and alleged figures. If there is no one watching over the interests of all business owners in maintaining workers' compensation premiums at affordable levels, the only avenue remaining was the judiciary. I am grateful for lawyers that do not represent me who have stepped forward to protect the interests of all business owners and their employees from the greedy agenda that appears to be the insurance industry's motive. Thank you!

Barney is a lobbyist. Nice to see he thinks it is ok for insurance companies to charge business for doing a poor job is adjusting their claims. He fails to point out that the insurance company paid an attorney to fight that $800 claim a similar amount. And the court found the insurance company was wrong. Blame the injured guy for wanting to get treatment the doctor the insurance company chose ordered. Blame the lawyer who was hired because the insurance company wrongfully denied the tests. Don't blame the insurance company and don't protect the businesses that contracted with the insurance company to handle the claims appropriately. I think Barney may lobby for the insurance industry

Incredible that a chamber of commerce would do everything possible to promote an increase in premiums to employers of our state. Could it be that they profit from higher rates? Can you spell c-o-n-f-l-I-c-t o-f I-n-t-e-r-e-s-t? Employers should be outraged that their dollars to the chamber are be misused in this fashion. The court found that NCCI was trying to hide the ball in the dark when the law says ratemaking must be in the open sunshine. Shame on the chamber for trying to cover up or excuse the sham that has been perpetrated on their members for years.

No Surprise!!! This is what you get when pettifogging trial lawyers "dip their fingers into the pie"...ANY PIE ! Then spend the rest of their time laying the blame everywhere else they can (hence, the term "pettifogger"). Lawyers have insinuated themselves into EVERY aspect of American "life" (and "death"); and very often in positions that IN NO WAY require the craftiness and deceitfulness of a lawyer, but in ALL cases confound the law and lives of citizens. Shakespeare was right when he wrote: "Let's kill all the lawyers" [Henry VI]

C Breeze. Yeah, I can tell that you nor anyone of your kids or family members have had a serious work related injury in Florida since 2003. Where you stand depends upon where you sit. . Get down on your knees and PRAY that you never have a serious injury at work and become a number to some work comp carrier. Your rights to Privacy? GONE. Your right to select a quality doctor as opposed to some insurance company doctor hack who will say everything is fine or that any injury is preexisting? GONE. Your right to be fairly compensated for the loss of income from your injuries? GONE. Pray on your knees now that you or a family member is not seriously hurt in Florida----or you will certainly be "bent over" and will be crying to hire one of those "trial lawyers" which you now ignorantly condemn.

CBreeze, let me explain it to ya. Lawyers don't work without clients. It ain't the lawyers, it's the people who hire them.

The dichotomy in their respective positions is so interesting...the w/c attorneys are trying to make the insurance industry the bad guys here...the business community is rightfully calling the w/c attorneys out as the ones that used an $800 injury to a worker to amass a $35,000+ attorney fee...this was carefully orchestrated by the w/c attorneys so they could show to a left-leaning Supreme Court - for now - that attorneys needed better fee provisions...for a supposedly self-executing system, clearly attorneys fees are THE driving issue for the 14.5% rate increase...and as Bill Herrle stated yesterday at the NEBA Business Panel, there is a $523 unfunded mandate in attorney fees that is driving the w/c rate increase...Brewster Bevis of AIF said it could be as much as $1 billion...so the 14.5% increase is just the beginning of a steady and perhaps rapid rise in w/c premiums...Bill's statement at the end of the article is perfect!

Barney III: Obviously you are a business owner or in management. Just wondering: do all of your employees have the same private disability policy and Blue Chip medical insurance that you have in the event of a work related accident? Ever have a serious work injury in Florida? You ever have to rely on work comp for your self or family members? Yeah.... betting all of the answers are, uh, ....NO!

Comments are now closed.

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