Risk and insurance legislation is back on the Florida Legislature’s agenda in 2018. The Florida House Insurance & Banking Chairman introduced an attorney fee cap (HB 7009), which he believes, will help stave off workers’ compensation premium increases. Under the chairman’s measure, fees for attorneys who represent claimants in workers’ compensation insurance cases would be capped at $150 an hour. With prior legislative sessions as our guide, we expect this is only the beginning of the story.
The Florida House voted overwhelmingly to repeal the state’s no-fault car insurance system, which has been in place since the 1970s. Under House Bill 19, drivers could save close to $1 billion statewide, according to a 2016 state commissioned actuarial study. That would be net savings after expected premium increases for bodily-injury liability coverage. Lawmakers in the Florida Senate are advancing their own version of PIP reform. Senate Bill 150 bill would repeal PIP and require bodily injury liability coverage at amounts that are phased in over several years. The senate measure would also require drivers to buy $5,000 of “medical payments” coverage for a driver’s own injuries, even if health coverage from Medicare, employer plans, or other sources is available. SB 150 passed Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
Several lawmakers in both chambers are seeking to build momentum for workers’ compensation reform for first responders. Bills moving in both the state Senate (SB 376) and the House (HB 227) would extend workers’ compensation benefits for first responders who sustain mental or nervous injuries. Support for the legislation is coming from the top ranking officials. Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer and state marshal came out in support of the bill, citing research from 2015 that showed 15 percent of firefighters had made at least one attempt at suicide during their career, while 46 percent of firefighters had thought about taking their lives.
CHANNELING THE SUN
The U.S. Department of Labor announced a new, less stringent test to determine whether interns shall be paid at least a minimum wage and overtime, providing guidance for employers to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act. The test reverses Obama-era guidance on low or no-pay internship programs.
A NEW TEST
Under the new standard, dubbed the “primary beneficiary test,” seven factors may be considered, but none of them is controlling. The test will now weigh factors such as an intern’s expectation of compensation or pathway to permanent employment, training and timing similar to educational environments, and work that complements, rather than displaces, paid employees.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Texas House of Representatives is calling upon the state’s Department of Insurance-Division of Workers’ Compensation (TDI-DWC) to secure input from carriers, doctors, patients, pharmacists, and other stakeholders to develop a workable rule surrounding compounded drugs. Compounded drugs are not FDA-approved and the FDA does not verify their safety, effectiveness, or quality. Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Ryan Brannan is seeking to develop a sensible preauthorization process to balance the interests of claimants, providers, and employers in the Lone Star State. The agency is accepting comments on the compound drug rule through February 20.
A bill that would cover cancer and other illnesses under presumption for former workers of a decommissioned nuclear site in Hanford, Washington, was revived in the Washington House of Representatives. Hanford was a federally operated nuclear site that manufactured the plutonium used in atomic weapons in the 1940s. Hanford employees, including those involved in the site cleanup, have contracted illnesses over time. The bill would establish a presumption under the state’s workers compensation laws for workers who suffer from specific cancers, including leukemia, lung cancer, bone cancer, kidney cancer, lymphoma, and other cancers affecting more than a dozen body parts.
President Trump signed into law the bipartisan No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act, sponsored by Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), which requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to permanently ban all professional drivers convicted of using commercial motor vehicles for trafficking. The president also signed into law a measure that designates an official to coordinate human trafficking prevention efforts at DOT and other federal agencies, a move lauded by leading industry groups.
LET’S HIT THE SKY
As the state legislative sessions start up, and Congress gets back into full swing, we’ll be on the go to keep you up-to-date on the state and federal affairs affecting our industry. Briefcases loaded? Check. Suits dry cleaned? Check. REAL ID identification compliant? We better check. The grace period for states to comply with federal REAL ID new rules officially expires on Monday, January 22. The Department of Homeland Security is posting updates and information related to state-by-state compliance and exemptions for state identification. Safe travels! We’ll see you along The Way.