Florida Justice Association Criticizes Amended HB 7085
The so-called “compromise” workers’ compensation proposal embraced by a House committee last week is no compromise at all, but instead is a handout to the insurance industry and its big-business allies – one that does little to benefit injured workers or most employers. The Florida Justice Association says the plan wipes out countless injured workers’ ability to afford legal help when insurance companies wrongfully deny benefits, without providing other new benefits to offset this added burden.
“We’re extremely disappointed in the workers’ compensation proposal passed by the Florida House Commerce Committee. The revised HB 7085 severely limits an injured worker’s ability to achieve the real goal of the Florida’s worker’s compensation system: To help them get well quickly and return to their job,” said Richard Chait, Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the Florida Justice Association.
Chait said any workers’ compensation reform should include some opportunity for injured workers to select their doctors; a mid-level tier for benefits; transparency and competition in the rate-making process; and reasonable attorney fees so injured workers can have access to the courts.
“The eventual outcome of the current approach will be that more injured workers will receive inadequate health care treatment to help them recover. Injured workers will be hard-pressed to return to work with their employer, and this will put an additional drain on government social programs,” added Chait. “In the end, the burden for those costs will be shouldered by Florida taxpayers.”
Current workers’ compensation law has been roundly criticized for being tilted in favor of insurance interests over injured workers, and key components of the law have been ruled unconstitutional. The law forbids injured workers from bringing liability suits against their employers. The “grand bargain” between workers and their employers is intended to provide medical and other benefits to make those injured well and return them to work with minimal involvement from other interests.
The proposed legislation allows insurers to continue choosing injured workers’ doctors and to determine whether to grant or deny benefits recommended by those doctors. It also limits attorneys’ fees when those benefits are wrongfully denied. Attorneys representing insurance companies have no limitations on their own fees or the number of hours they can charge, win or lose, while the injured person’s attorney can be paid only if they successfully prove the benefits were wrongfully denied.
“The bill in its current form misses an opportunity to enact true, balanced, and comprehensive reform to make the system better for injured workers,” Chait added. “The only people smiling about this proposal are the corporate and insurance special interests who received a windfall at the expense of workers.”