The Florida Senate's Banking and Insurance Committee opened debates on Tuesday over the proposed 14.5% rate hike proposed by the group in charge of proposing insurance rates in Florida, NCCI (National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc.).
Luckily, Florida's lawmakers have not been influenced by the go-to soundbite from special interest groups claiming that the proposed increase can be blamed solely on attorney's fees. Senators Greg Steube and Gary Farmer, Jr. shifted the focus onto NCCI and the system in place for determining insurance rates in Florida. Rather than having a competitive marketplace between insurance carriers, which is the norm in a majority of states, the power lies solely within NCCI to propose increases in insurance rates on behalf of all insurance carriers. (And as we have seen, determine those increases behind closed doors).
Senators Steube and Farmer indicated their support for a system where the insurance carriers compete for business by proposing their own rates, rather than the current system where all carriers charge the "common rates" proposed by NCCI and accepted by the Office of Insurance Regulation.
As Henry Ford once said, "Competition is the keen cutting edge of business, always shaving away at costs."
A recent court case challenging the proposed rate hike for workers’ compensation premiums has resulted in a victory for Florida business owners thanks to the work of attorneys who represent Florida’s injured workers.
Florida’s system for setting workers’ compensation rates is an antiquated one where the insurance carriers all hire the same contractor to set rates on their behalf with regulators. Florida is one of the only few states left who uses this type of system as opposed to allowing market forces to determine pricing.
Unfortunately, this system leads to increased costs for Florida’s employers and tends to only benefit the insurance carriers. This was shown by the recent proposal by NCCI (National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc.) for an increase of 14.5% without providing any true data or analysis to support.
James Fee, an attorney who represents injured workers in Florida, filed suit challenging the proposed hike because of NCCI’s failure to abide by Florida’s open government laws, also known as the Sunshine law. The suit was filed against NCCI, Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation and insurance commissioner David Altmaier for failing to provide public records or comply with public meeting requirements as required under Florida’s Sunshine laws. NCCI has defended their actions by claiming they are not subject to Florida’s Sunshine laws.
Judge Karen Gievers, a Circuit Court Judge in Tallahassee, recently ruled in favor of the challenge finding that the regulator and NCCI had violated Florida’s Sunshine laws by not opening their process to the public. In fact, she noted a series of NCCI meetings involving NCCI actuary Jay Rosen, Altmaier and other regulatory staff, were never publicly noticed and no members of the public were present.
Unfortunately, Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation has appealed the Circuit Court ruling meaning that the rate hike will go into effect as planned while this appeal is pending. As the current president of Florida’s Workers’ Advocates stated, "Though a circuit court judge emphatically ruled last week that insurance special interests actively broke Florida law, they are being rewarded now by getting to line their pockets with unwarranted profits… We are confident that the judge’s thoughtful, well-reasoned ruling will be upheld on appeal. But in the meantime, Florida businesses will be forced to pay unnecessarily high premiums, while workers’ comp insurance companies enjoy this early – and undeserved – mammoth present.” –Mark Touby, president of Florida Workers’ Advocates.