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Workers’ comp to drop another 6.8%

10/15/2009 © Health News Florida

Workers' compensation insurance will go down 6.8 percent in Florida next year, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty announced today in a press release. That will make Florida one of the 10 lowest-rate states in the country, he said.

The rate decrease requested in August by the National Council on Compensation Insurance will produce savings of more than $166 million for Florida employers, the Office of Insurance Regulation release estimates.

It will be the seventh consecutive decline in workers’ compensation rates since the Legislature passed sweeping reforms in 2003, OIR noted, with a cumulative rate drop averaging 63.2 percent statewide.

“This is good news for Florida employers, and the Florida economy,” McCarty's statement says. He commended the governor and Legislature for limiting attorney's fees in workers' compensation cases -- a re-enactment following a Florida Supreme Court decision that knocked down a previous attorney-fee cap.

"If it were not for this legislation, the workers’ compensation industry in Florida would likely have proposed rate increases instead of decreases in 2010,”  McCarty's statement said.

Before the 2003 reforms, Florida had the first- or second-highest workers’ compensation rates in the country. Last year, Florida dropped to the 28th highest; the most recent round of rate reductions will place Florida among the 10 states with the lowest rates, according to OIR.

But the tradeoff has been shutting injured workers out of the court system, trial attorneys and editorial boards around the state have argued. They say attorneys' fees are so low that it doesn't pay to take the cases. 

NCCI, which produces and files rates for insurers, said Florida has seen a significant reduction in claims frequency, although there are indications this trend has moderated. NCCI and others testified at an OIR rate hearing on Oct. 6.

Because McCarty objected to NCCI's calculations in several areas, the rate filing will have to be revised, OIR said. But the office said the rate reduction would be approved on the modified filing.