Jimmy Patronis: League of Cities’ opposition to benefits for first responders is ‘disgraceful’

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Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, also the state’s fire marshal, called the Florida League of Cities “disgraceful” for “attempting to derail” legislation that would allow first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) access to mental health benefits.

Patronis issued a news release Monday.

“Florida League of Cities lobbyists have, at every step of the legislative committee process, vehemently opposed a measure that would allow Florida’s first responders to seek treatment for PTSD,” he said in a statement.

“Their opposition comes despite the fact that this measure has passed every House and Senate committee unanimously,” he added.

The League has raised concerns over the cost expanded workers’ comp would have on local government, a position that Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole, a Plantation Democrat, slammed during a recent debate in the measure.

“If … you are seeing what is happening and you are not appalled, I find it distasteful and shameful for you to say that this bill is not necessary,” Edwards-Walpole said.

Added Patronis: “Florida League of Cities lobbyists have now gone further to commission a report, wrought with flawed and erroneous data, to support why they don’t care about the first responders who make up the communities they represent.

“Our analysis revealed that not only does the report reflect a minimal impact, but there are outrageous and absurd assumptions made to skew opinion on this important issue. Knowingly peddling a deceptive report to defeat a measure that would allow first responders suffering from PTSD to get help is nothing short of disgraceful.

“Firefighters, for example, have a suicide attempt rate five times the general adult population. Suicide is not a solution.

“As we discuss increasing mental health resources in response to the Parkland tragedy, it would be shameful if an inaccurate report prevented our first responders, who struggle to deal with the immense psychological and emotional toll of their job, from getting the help they deserve.

“To combat the attempt by the Florida League of Cities lobbyists to derail this life or death issue, at my direction the Division of Workers’ Compensation analyzed their report and uncovered shocking flaws.”

That analysis follows:

MEMORANDUM
To: Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and House Government Accountability Committee
From: Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis
Date:Monday, February 26, 2018
Subject: Analysis of Florida League of Cities’ Study on House Bill 227

Currently, Florida’s workers’ compensation system does not cover mental injuries for first responders unless accompanied by a physical injury.

House Bill 227 and Senate Bill 376 aim to make post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) a covered treatment for first responders under workers’ compensation without requiring a physical injury.

Below please find CFO Patronis’ Division of Workers’ Compensation (“Division”) analysis of a report commissioned by the Florida League of Cities. The analysis was conducted on February 23, 2018 after a request for the report had been made.

Invented Worst-Case Scenarios. The Florida League of Cities’ report overestimates the amount of time a first responder could be out of work by nearly six times the Florida standard. The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) Florida CompScope report indicates the average duration for a typical Florida lost-time claim to be 11 to 13 weeks, while the Florida League of Cities’ report estimates 6 to 18 months.

The Florida League of Cities report uses each and every “worst case scenario” possible to estimate the cost of lost wages (indemnity), and assumes first responders will always receive the highest disability amount available. The Florida League of Cities also ignores the effect of return-to-work programs on mitigating indemnity costs. First responders may return to work in another role while remaining at the same pay or are able to work in a different capacity at a reduced salary. In this situation, the first responder will receive temporary partial benefits, which will offset some of the differential in pre-and post-injury salary amounts.

Absurd Assumptions about Eligibility. The report assumes that 100 percent of first responders eligible to receive benefits will seek treatment and immediately begin “out of work” status. Testimony and first responder behavior demonstrate that this assumption is grossly overstated. By using this assumption, local governments would also have to expect to replace every single one of their first responder employees, which is absurd.

Assumes Costs are Immediate. The Florida League of Cities’ report seems to present that costs will all be immediately realized. The cost estimates presented in the report represent the total costs paid out over the life of the claim, which can take several years and often vary year to year.

Uncertainty. The Florida League of Cities’ report is unable to actually predict with certainty the fiscal impact of the bill because of the vast variations in the data for the possible total cost to local governments. By the Division’s calculations, there is a 587 percent difference between the central cost estimates and the lowest cost estimate, and a 195 percent difference between the central cost estimates and highest cost estimate.

Report Reflects Minimal Impact. Even if one were to believe the exaggerated assumptions and data choices, the impact to local governments still only represents .08 percent (low severity) to 1.58 percent (high severity) of the current budgets of the largest users of the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust.

Last updated on February 26, 2018

Staff Reports


2 comments

  • Eric johnson

    February 27, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Amazing how an organization such as the league of cities can pass such judgment not having to walk in our shoes. We as first responders have a hard drive for our emotions to be placed in. What do we do when that hard drive is full?
    So incredibly sad.
    Disgusting actually.
    Maybe after losing 10 or 15 children while in their care minds would change.

  • Paul De Young

    February 28, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    This isn’t the first anti employee issue the FLC has come out against. They have in the past, done a considerable amount of union busting through their membership.

Comments are closed.


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