You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

Businesses like House workers comp bill; workers, lawyers don’t


Nearly a year after a Florida Supreme Court ruling rocked the state’s workers compensation insurance system, the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill aimed at holding down insurance rates for businesses.

The House, however, will need to reach agreement with the Senate on a final plan before the scheduled May 5 end of the annual legislative session. That will require lawmakers to bridge differences on thorny issues, including limits on attorney fees.

RELATED: Complete Florida Legislature coverage

House Insurance & Banking Chairman Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, described the House version as “comprehensive reform” to the insurance system. Business groups have lobbied heavily for changes after state regulators approved a 14.5 percent rate increase that began taking effect Dec. 1.

“This is a good bill that takes care of injured workers (and) provides a competitive market,” Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said.

But many Democrats criticized the bill (HB 7085), saying it doesn’t do enough to provide benefits to injured workers.

“The injured worker deserves something, something, and they are not getting anything out of this bill,” said Rep. Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat and former state insurance consumer advocate.

Burgess disputed those arguments. “We are not ignoring the injured worker,” he said.

The House voted 82-37 to approve the bill, along almost straight party lines. All Republicans voted for the bill and were joined by Democrats Larry Lee of Port St. Lucie, Wengay Newton of St. Petersburg and Richard Stark of Weston.

A large part of the rate increase approved last year stemmed from an April 28 Supreme Court ruling that struck down strict limits on fees paid to workers’ attorneys. The ruling came in a case in which an attorney was awarded the equivalent of $1.53 an hour in successfully pursuing a claim for benefits for a worker injured in Miami.

Business groups contend that attorney fees drive up insurance rates and have pushed lawmakers to take steps to curb fees.

That issue has dominated legislative debate, with groups such as plaintiffs’ attorneys fighting fee limits. They contend, at least in part, that such limits can prevent injured workers from getting legal representation to challenge insurer decisions about benefits.

The House bill would cap fees for workers’ attorneys at $150 an hour, while the Senate bill (SB 1582) would include a maximum of $250 an hour — an amount opposed by business groups.

The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday approved the Senate bill (SB 1582), which is now ready to go to the full Senate.

Senate sponsor Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, emphasized that he is committed to trying to negotiate a final bill with the House, saying “everybody’s going to have to give a little.”

Along with the attorney fee issue, he said a key issue likely will focus on a House proposal to reduce reimbursements to hospitals and ambulatory-surgical centers for outpatient care provided to injured workers. Bradley said the Senate is not interested in taking savings “out of the hides” of hospitals.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Goodman: New state law will put Florida science teaching under attack
Goodman: New state law will put Florida science teaching under attack

Earth Science and Physics teacher Erich Landstrom, leading a discussion after watching a video of a meteor crashing in Russia during a freshman Earth Science class at Seminole Ridge High School in 2013 . (Bill Ingram/The Palm Beach Post) The culture wars are about to heat up in Florida. A new law will give climate change-deniers and...
Who does history favor if Rick Scott challenges Bill Nelson in 2018?
Who does history favor if Rick Scott challenges Bill Nelson in 2018?

Sen. Bill Nelson in his West Palm Beach office last month. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post) Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is one of 10 Democrats up for re-election next year in states that Republican Donald Trump won in 2016. Republicans, on the other hand, have only one Senate incumbent — Dean Heller of...
Where's Jimmy Gomez? Congressman-elect hasn't been sworn in

The only Democrat to win a special congressional election this year still hasn't shown up for work more than three weeks after winning his race — and more than six months since the seat became vacant. Rep.-elect Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., won a special election June 6 to represent California's 34th Congressional District but says he wants to...
A cautious Supreme Court sets modern record for consensus
A cautious Supreme Court sets modern record for consensus

The Supreme Court was short-handed for most of the term that ended Monday, and it responded with caution, setting a modern record for consensus. “Having eight was unusual and awkward,” Justice Samuel Alito told a judicial conference a few days after Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court in April. “That probably required having a lot...
Interior secretary wants more 'front line' help in parks
Interior secretary wants more 'front line' help in parks

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he'll ease the impact of potentially huge National Park Service budget cuts by shifting more resources to the "front line." But it's not clear yet what that actually means. The department earlier this year laid out the potential effects in its justification for the funding reductions in fiscal 2018, which...
More Stories