Florida’s Workers’ Compensation System Dealt Another Blow

The Florida Supreme Court just released their ruling on the high profile Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg case. The justices declared that the state’s statutory 104-week cap on Temporary Disability Benefits is unconstitutional.

The Westphal case involved a former City of St. Petersburg firefighter who suffered from a workplace injury that left him with multiple surgery’s and unable to return to work. He had exhausted his Temporary Benefits but was refused Permanent Disability because his long-term recovery could not be determined. So, even though he was not deemed as Permanently Disabled, he was unable to return to work.

The court said that to cut off disability benefits after 104 weeks to a worker who is totally disabled and incapable of working, but who has not yet reached maximum medical improvement is unconstitutional. They opted to revive a previous limitation, increasing the limit to 260 weeks (5 years).

This ruling comes just months after the Castellanos case ruled the statutory limit on attorney fees was unconstitutional. These two decisions are an indicator of major changes in the Florida’s workers’ compensation system. Together, they will completely change the landscape of the system as we know it. We can see the beginning of these effects with the proposed rate increase by NCCI just a few weeks ago.

What Does This Mean for Employers?

Workers' CompensationMany insurers anticipating this ruling have either continued benefits or accepted claimants as permanently totally disabled. In other words, some of the impact may be lessened with current cases that are open. The lengthened temporary benefits will increase claims costs, which in turn will affect workers’ compensation rates and potentially keep claims open for longer periods, affecting experience mods.

We expect to see many changes in the workers’ compensation marketplace in the next few years as rates and insurers react to these cases. It is crucial for employers to have an advisor who is knowledgeable and has a proactive approach to claims.

NEW OSHA RULE: Electronic Submissions Now Mandatory for Certain Employers

OSHA RecordkeepingA new OSHA rule is requiring certain employers to start electronically submitting their recordkeeping forms on workplace illnesses and injuries to OSHA.

Currently, employers who are required by OSHA to complete the 301, 300 and 300A recordkeeping forms were only required to produce the forms when requested by OSHA as part of an inspection or investigation.  Some employers would receive a survey from the Bureau of Labor to answer questions regarding information on their 300 and 300A forms, but were never asked to submit the actual forms.

OSHA will require employers with 250 or more employees who are already required to complete the recordkeeping forms to submit the forms electronically. This information will then be posted on OSHA’s website.  In addition to large employers mentioned above, employers of certain industries will be required to submit the 300A form only.  Below is a link to OSHA’s website regarding the new rule.  The website gives a list of industries under 250 employees who will be required to submit their 300A forms along with FAQ’s.

https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/finalrule/

Although the new rule goes into effect in August of 2016, data submissions will be phased in starting in January 2017.  In 2017, large employers of 250 employees or more, along with certain industries, must submit their 300A form to OSHA by July 1, 2017.  In 2018, large employers will be required to submit the 301, 300 and 300A forms by July 1, 2018 and selected industries will have the same deadline, but will only be required to submit the 300A form.  In 2019, the submission deadline will change from July 1st to March 2nd.  OSHA plans to provide a secure site to which employers can submit their forms.  Personally identifiable information will be removed from the data before being posted on the OSHA website.

The new rule does not change the current recordkeeping rule.  Employers already required to complete the form should continue to do so and keep them for the mandatory 5 years.

Please contact your W3 advisor with any questions regarding OSHA’s new rule and if you are in the list of industries required to submit.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled… what’s next?

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled... what's next?The individual mandate will stand as a “tax” versus commerce and Affordable Care Act will move ahead.  With all the fanfare Employers are beginning to plan for their next steps.

Some next steps Employers need to be thinking about:

1). Review your benefit offerings to make sure they meet the guidelines of essential coverage.

2). Watch your mail for notice of the MLR rebate and determine how you will distribute if your
plan qualifies.

3). Confirm with your carrier that your plan has been amended to comply with the Women’s Preventive Care provisions.  Must comply as plans renew beginning 8/1/12.

4.) Be on the lookout for your new Summary of Benefits and Coverage. Carriers are required to provide these for open enrollments/plan years beginning 9/23/12.

5.) If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) you will need to check the allowable maximum. It is now restricted to $2,500 per person up to $5,000 per family.

6.) Employers who submit 250 or more W2 for 2012 must include the value of health care coverage in box 12 on employees W2. Check with your payroll vendor to make sure this amount can be tracked and reported.

Looking further ahead 2014 marks the deadline for many of the major provisions in Obama Care. Individual mandates begin, wellness initiatives are strengthened, automatic enrollment is mandated, waiting periods are restricted, penalties for NOT providing coverage begin, exchanges roll out, pre-existing provisions are eliminated and premium subsidies for lower income individuals become available.

Wallace Welch and Willingham is monitoring the events as they unfold and will keep you up to date on steps towards compliance. We welcome your questions and will be happy to assist.

This legislation still has many voids and unanswered issues. We anticipate seeing significant clarification and revision.  The 2012 presidential election could also have significant impact on the Affordable Care Act. So, for some employers “wait and see” may still be the best next step.