Associated Industries of Florida Disappointed With 'So-Called Workers' Compensation Reform'

Apr 05, 2001, 01:00 ET from Associated Industries of Florida

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The following statement was
 issued today by Associated Industries of Florida:
     Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) is disappointed with yesterday's
 uneven work of the Florida House Insurance Committee in its consideration of
 its workers' compensation reform bill, PCB 01-04.  After dozens of hours of
 public testimony, hundreds of hours of exhaustive hearings by the Workers'
 Compensation Task Force, the results of which were reported to the House
 Insurance Committee in great detail, and countless personal briefings, the
 committee failed to produce a bill that fundamentally reforms a sinking
 workers' compensation system.  Worse yet, in attempting to compromise on every
 issue, the committee somehow managed to produce a bill that will only further
 increase costs to Florida's employers and accelerate the system's collapse
 into fiscal disarray.
     "We are amazed," said Jon L. Shebel, AIF's president & CEO.  "The
 committee came within a hair's breadth of actually increasing attorneys' fees,
 liberalizing permanent total disability even further and totally ducking the
 issue of fraud."
     "If the bill continues as it was written today by the committee, it
 may be too expensive for the business community to support it," said Mary
 Ann Stiles, AIF General Counsel and lead advocate for AIF on the issue.
 "This is really tragic.  Workers' compensation was designed for employers
 and employees, and everyone else involved simply makes money off this system.
 Right now, while this bill increases benefits to injured workers, it does
 not create enough system balances to counter a rate increase."
     The House Committee on Insurance, chaired by Rep. Leslie Waters (R-Largo),
 actually adopted an amendment by a voice vote scuttling language in the bill
 to reduce attorney's fees, which are an enormous cost-driver to the system
 under current law.  On a roll call vote, however, the committee edged back and
 the amendment failed.  The committee also adopted an amendment further
 liberalizing the law, which will permit more injured workers to achieve the
 "permanent total disability" designation.  Adopting this amendment was totally
 at cross-purposes with the original intent of the draft bill and the report of
 the Workers' Compensation Task Force recommendations.  Florida is already
 second only to Colorado in the percentage it pays in indemnity benefits for
 permanent total disability.  In addition, the committee cast aside a
 compromise AIF had offered on closing the exemptions from required coverage
 currently enjoyed by the construction industry.  Instead, the committee opted
 for yet another study of the issue.  This much-studied "issue" is draining an
 estimated $1 billion in premium dollars out of the workers' compensation
 system due to egregious and aggressive fraud.  Finally, the committee lamely
 agreed to a compromise that combines private and public mediation on workers'
 compensation cases, further increasing costs to Florida's employers.
     "We can only educate the legislators so much," said Shebel.  "At some
 time, they will have to make the hard decisions.  They can do it now and make
 good policy, or they can wait until we have yet another full-blown workers'
 compensation crisis.
     "When major issues are addressed, decisions must be made," he continued.
 "Chairman Waters' desire to compromise on every issue prior to its
 consideration by the committee only weakens the overall efforts for reform.
 The rhetoric being tossed around by opponents of reform should be recognized
 for what it is."
 
 

SOURCE Associated Industries of Florida
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The following statement was
 issued today by Associated Industries of Florida:
     Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) is disappointed with yesterday's
 uneven work of the Florida House Insurance Committee in its consideration of
 its workers' compensation reform bill, PCB 01-04.  After dozens of hours of
 public testimony, hundreds of hours of exhaustive hearings by the Workers'
 Compensation Task Force, the results of which were reported to the House
 Insurance Committee in great detail, and countless personal briefings, the
 committee failed to produce a bill that fundamentally reforms a sinking
 workers' compensation system.  Worse yet, in attempting to compromise on every
 issue, the committee somehow managed to produce a bill that will only further
 increase costs to Florida's employers and accelerate the system's collapse
 into fiscal disarray.
     "We are amazed," said Jon L. Shebel, AIF's president & CEO.  "The
 committee came within a hair's breadth of actually increasing attorneys' fees,
 liberalizing permanent total disability even further and totally ducking the
 issue of fraud."
     "If the bill continues as it was written today by the committee, it
 may be too expensive for the business community to support it," said Mary
 Ann Stiles, AIF General Counsel and lead advocate for AIF on the issue.
 "This is really tragic.  Workers' compensation was designed for employers
 and employees, and everyone else involved simply makes money off this system.
 Right now, while this bill increases benefits to injured workers, it does
 not create enough system balances to counter a rate increase."
     The House Committee on Insurance, chaired by Rep. Leslie Waters (R-Largo),
 actually adopted an amendment by a voice vote scuttling language in the bill
 to reduce attorney's fees, which are an enormous cost-driver to the system
 under current law.  On a roll call vote, however, the committee edged back and
 the amendment failed.  The committee also adopted an amendment further
 liberalizing the law, which will permit more injured workers to achieve the
 "permanent total disability" designation.  Adopting this amendment was totally
 at cross-purposes with the original intent of the draft bill and the report of
 the Workers' Compensation Task Force recommendations.  Florida is already
 second only to Colorado in the percentage it pays in indemnity benefits for
 permanent total disability.  In addition, the committee cast aside a
 compromise AIF had offered on closing the exemptions from required coverage
 currently enjoyed by the construction industry.  Instead, the committee opted
 for yet another study of the issue.  This much-studied "issue" is draining an
 estimated $1 billion in premium dollars out of the workers' compensation
 system due to egregious and aggressive fraud.  Finally, the committee lamely
 agreed to a compromise that combines private and public mediation on workers'
 compensation cases, further increasing costs to Florida's employers.
     "We can only educate the legislators so much," said Shebel.  "At some
 time, they will have to make the hard decisions.  They can do it now and make
 good policy, or they can wait until we have yet another full-blown workers'
 compensation crisis.
     "When major issues are addressed, decisions must be made," he continued.
 "Chairman Waters' desire to compromise on every issue prior to its
 consideration by the committee only weakens the overall efforts for reform.
 The rhetoric being tossed around by opponents of reform should be recognized
 for what it is."
 
 SOURCE  Associated Industries of Florida