McCarty Signals 6.4% Workers' Comp Rate Hike

Tallahassee, FL (CompNewsNetwork) – Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty today announced that he has advised the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) that he would approve a rate filing to increase Florida's workers' compensation insurance rates by 6.4 percent to be effective April 1 for new and renewal business. Commissioner McCarty's action is technically a denial of the NCCI's Nov. 14 rate filing in which it was seeking an 8.9 percent rate increase as a result of the impact on rates it projects following the Oct. 23 Florida Supreme Court opinion in the case of Emma Murray v. Mariner Health Inc.
The Court's decision eliminates the statutory caps on attorney fees that were imposed as a result of the 2003 reforms under SB 50A and will enable claimant attorneys handling workers' compensation claims to collect increased fees for their services.
"It's very early to know for sure what the full impact of the Supreme Court's decision on workers' compensation rates will be," said Commissioner McCarty. "But, if history holds true, we will see these rates start to go up as more attorneys get back involved, likely extending the litigation process, with workers' compensation cases.
"I am cautiously optimistic that business leaders and the plaintiff attorneys will get together and propose an amendment to our law that will help to ensure that workers' compensation insurance remains affordable for our employers, while also protecting injured workers by ensuring their access to courts, medical care and other necessary benefits."
Prior to the legislative reforms, Florida consistently ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the country for the highest workers' compensation rates; however, post-reform Florida has dropped out of the top 10 rankings.

The NCCI proposed spreading an 18.6 percent rate increase over two years – 8.9 percent for the first year, to become effective March 1 – for the voluntary market for all new and renewal workers' compensation insurance policies written in Florida. Over two years, the 6.4 percent increase recommended by Commissioner McCarty could amount to a 13.1 percent increase, unless changes to the system are made to minimize the impact of attorney involvement.
In requesting the NCCI to amend its most recent filing, Commissioner McCarty cited disagreements with the data and methodology the NCCI used to calculate the projected effect of the Court's ruling.
In October, Commissioner McCarty approved an 18.6 percent reduction in rates, effective Jan. 1. It was the sixth consecutive drop in worker's compensation rates since the Florida Legislature passed the reforms in 2003; and with the change, the cumulative overall statewide average rate decrease since 2003 is more than 60 percent. The NCCI originally had requested a 14.1 percent decrease in its filing of Aug. 27. The further reduction in rates had the potential to save Florida employers more than $610 million.
When filed and approved, Monday's recommended increase in rates will add about $172 million in insurance costs for Florida employers. But, in combination with the 18.6 percent decrease that took effect Jan. 1, the net effect still is a savings of $438 million.

The 18.6 percent decrease in October stands as the largest one-year decrease on record, following the two previous largest decreases – 18.4 percent for 2008 and 15.7 percent for 2007. The last six filings represent the largest consecutive cumulative decrease on record in Florida workers' compensation rates – dating back to 1965.
The workers' compensation reform law instituted provisions for enhanced fraud compliance and revised permanent and temporary disability definitions. It also set new parameters for attorney and physician compensation and improved dispute resolution procedures, in addition to making many other improvements to the system.

About the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (Office) has primary responsibility for regulation, compliance and enforcement of statutes related to the business of insurance and the monitoring of industry markets. The Office protects Florida consumers through regulatory oversight of: insurance company solvency, policy forms and rates, market conduct performance and new company entrants to the Florida market. 

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