By Tom Murphy
For the second time in six months, the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) has approved a rate decrease that will affect all Florida businesses. Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier’s statement attributes the 1.8% overall decrease to the recent federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The new rates will take effect for all new and renewal workers’ compensation policies as of June 1, 2018.
The first rate decrease of 9.8% went into effect on January 1, 2018 and was basically approved and based upon claims payments from years prior to 2017, when the Florida Supreme Court made two major rulings that in essence provided greater benefits for injured workers but also removed attorney fee caps that had been in place since 2004. It is widely anticipated that these rulings will have a detrimental effect on the Florida workers’ compensation system in the coming years and that the courts and insurance carriers are already starting to see the results of having to pay more as a result of these changes.
As I have stated in prior articles, the business community welcomes these rate decreases, but they will be short lived and will ultimately make the almost-certain rate increases harder to accept. Politicians and others will take full credit for the rate decreases but when the rates ultimately rise, they will blame the insurance companies. What the general public does not know is that the workers’ compensation carriers in Florida are highly regulated and can only raise their rates when instructed to do so by the state. In the meantime, attorneys have no limits on what they can charge.
Some brave leaders will speak up about the true reasons, which include the current Supreme Court rulings and the legal system they protect at the expense of all businesses and individuals who ultimately pay for the insurance. The Florida legislature has yet to address these issues that will rear their ugly heads in the near future.