A key state workers’ compensation oversight board operated at full strength for the first time since 2014 on Tuesday, as its new employee representative took his seat.
Jason Robbins, a workers’ comp attorney from Melbourne, won the appointment from Gov. Rick Scott in June, but hearings in Tallahassee on reimbursement rates for medical providers under the system gave him his first opportunity to participate publicly.
“It was great,” Robbins said of his first meeting. “Very informative. I think the Division (of Workers’ Compensation) does a great job.”
The panel oversees medical reimbursements under the workers’ compensation system. Any increases of more than $1 million must be ratified by the Legislature. The panel OK’d reimbursement increases worth $144 million during the meeting.
As an attorney, Robbins represents workers under the worker’ comp system. He said he replied to an ad seeking candidates for the position, which Scott had left vacant until the Legislature began applying pressure. The approval process required interviews with the governor and his aides, and ratification by the Legislature.
The panel also includes a representative of business interests, plus Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier.
The commissioner chaired the meeting and welcomed Robbins to the panel.
“With workers’ compensation, there are two very key parties — you have the employers and you have the employees,” Altmaier said. “I think it’s important generally, for decision-making, to have as many perspectives as you can have.”
Stakeholders in the system have expressed the employee perspective, “so I don’t necessarily think we’ve lost anything by not having the employee representative on the panel,” Altmaier said. “But certainly having that position filled is going to be of benefit to us going forward.”
Did Robbins think the lack of someone to speak for workers harmed their interests?
“That might be a strong word,” Robbins said.
“I think it’s important that someone represents their voice. There’s a whole side of the law for the foot soldier that wasn’t discussed in this room. This is about money and efficiency,” he said. “The quicker they get their medical treatment, the quicker they get better, the quicker they get back to work.”
Robbins engaged actively in the hearing, asking a number of questions of division staff and industry representatives who addressed the panel. “As active as he’s been, I feel really good about having that spot filled,” Altmaier said.