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No deadline for decision on big workers’ comp hike

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A public hearing this week represented a major battle in the war over a proposed major increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, but the fighting is by no means over.

The Office of Insurance Regulation will accept public comments on the proposed 19.6 percent hike until close of business Aug. 23.

“While there is no defined period of review, the office will take the time that is necessary to come to a fully informed decision,” spokeswoman Any Bogner said via email. “Based on that information, the office may approve the requested amount or a different amount.”

Last year, for example, the National Council of Compensation Insurance, which proposes workers’ compensation insurance rates for most carriers in Florida, proposed a 1.9 percent reduction in rates; the insurance office approved a 4.7 percent cut.

Associated Industries of Florida chief Tom Feeney spoke for many business leaders in denouncing Florida Supreme Court rulings that the council blames for the scale of its proposed increase. In two opinions, the court struck limits on temporary total disability benefits and attorney fees.

In a written statement Tuesday, as council actuaries explained their thinking during the hearing chaired in Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, Feeney said AIF has formed a task force seeking “to relieve, as soon as possible, the pressure on rates, while simultaneously searching for the optimal policies to protect injured workers and have rates that promote job growth and prosperity,” he said.

The trial bar, meanwhile, is trying to rally business owners to its side by accusing insurers of earning unfair profits.

For now, “we wait for the insurance commissioner and Office of Insurance Regulation to consider all of the testimony and all of the data submitted,” said Richard Chait, chairman of the workers’ compensation section of the Florida Justice Association. “They will ultimately render an opinion as to what the rate change will be — if any.”

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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