Wednesday, October 9, 2013

e-JCC Saves Millions?

Last year (the OJCC operates on a fiscal year that begins July 1 each year and concludes the next June 30), thousands of documents were filed with the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. Obviously, some were filed by Claimants and some by Employer/Carriers. The “service” of these motions has traditionally been a job for the U.S. Postal Service or the facsimile machine. In a general sense, each motion is served on counsel for the opposing party. There are those attorneys who will serve a motion on both the attorney and the party, but that is very rare.

The current cost of a First Class stamp is $.46. The postal service rates have been rising. In 1863, the cost for the first one ounce was $.06. That decreased to $.02 by 1885, and remained somewhat consistent until 1932, when the Postal Service increased the cost to $.03, where it remained for almost 20 years. If the historic inflation rate were applied to that $.02 applicable in the early 20th Century, the cost of a postage stamp today would be $.47, so the USPS is beating inflation. Inflation will likely continue, and the cost of postage will likely continue to rise.

Certified mail adds $3.10 to the cost. This service is intended to prove both the mailing and the receipt of documents. For merely $3.56 ($.46 + $3.10) you can mail a one ounce letter and both prove that you mailed it and prove that the addressee received it. This was the procedural tool adopted by the legislature in 1994 for sending both petitions for benefits and the responses required by law.

The cost of postage is a cost of doing business in the litigation world generally, and until a few years ago was as major in the micro-litigation world that is Florida workers’ compensation. What has e-service saved the marketplace?

Last year, there were 58,041 Petitions filed. By law, those are to be served by Certified mail, unless served through our e-portal, the e-JCC service process. At $3.57 each, those  PFB represent an expenditure of $206,626 (58,041 x $3.56). (That was saved in the e-portal serving the carrier). Remember that before e-filing that same amount was required to file by Certified mail with the OJCC, a total of $413,252).

Last year, there were 42,116 Responses to Petitions filed. Each of these would have cost $3.56 each to send to the OJCC by Certified and $3.56 each to send to Claimant or counsel by U.S. Certified mail. E-Filing and e-service saved the market another $299,866 (42,116 x $3.56 x 2).

Last year, parties e-filed 502,448 documents with the OJCC. Of these, 59,432 were petitions for benefits, discussed above. Another 42,116 were Responses to Petitions, also discussed above. This leaves 402,291 (502,448 - 59,432 - 42,116) documents e-filed. Each of those saved the sender at least $.46 in expense of mailing to the Judge’s office. Most or all of those would have been e-served on opposing counsel. Thus another e-filing savings to the marketplace of about $370,108 (402,291 x $.46 x 2).

The combined one-year savings to the workers’ compensation marketplace from the e-filing and e-service tools? $1,083,226 ($413,252 + $299,866 + $370,108). Yes, that is over one million dollars in annual savings to the marketplace from the combination of e-service and e-filing. As postage charges continue to rise in the future, these savings will remain, and the value of both e-JCC processes will become greater.

Also, the system results in savings for the state. There were 112,712 motion and stipulation orders issued last year. Before e-service, the OJCC was sending two (at least) of those orders out by U.S. Mail, one to each party or counsel. That $103,695.04 (112,712 x $.46 x 2) expense was avoided last year through the use of e-service. Likewise, for the 58,041 Petitions filed last year, at least one notice was sent (mediation), in some cases more than one was sent (mediation and trial). The minimum that was saved on notices through e-service was $53.397.72 (58,041 x $.46 x 2).  The e-service process saved the state at least $157,092.76 ($103,695.04 + $53.397.72) last year.

Annual savings to market $1,083,226
Annual savings to OJCC     $157,093

This $1,240,329 in savings is significant, recurs annually, and represents only actual postage savings resulting from e-JCC capabilities. In addition, tons of paper, significant document preparation time, and document processing time were also saved. 

Overall, the e-service and e-filing system has produced financial savings to the marketplace of $4,323,894.34 since it was deployed in 2005 through the end of last fiscal year on June 30, 2013.

These numbers are particularly interesting when I consider that the OJCC has not yet invested one million dollars in the e-JCC system that is generating savings to the marketplace and state in excess of one million dollars annually.

We all periodically hear the sarcastic reference to “your tax dollars at work.” The difference here is that no tax dollars contribute in any way to the operation of the OJCC. One hundred percent of the funding for your OJCC comes from the Administrative Trust Fund, which is funded by assessments on insurance policies for workers’ compensation. The second difference here is that there is no sarcasm, this is your assessment dollars at work, providing efficiency, transparency and savings for the Florida workers’ compensation marketplace.

The value is clear. The value will only become more impressive as postage rates continue their inevitable path upwards.  

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