Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NY and FL Produce an Interesting Comparison

New York and Florida have roughly the same populations. The United States Census Bureau estimates there are 19,651,127 New Yorkers and 19,552,860 Floridians.

The Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims had a budget in 2012-13 of $16,142,140.  The Florida Division of Workers' Compensation budget was about $25 Million. The total  Florida expended that a year for workers' compensation regulation and adjudication was about $42 Million.

New York announced recently that it is cancelling its "scanning services" contract this year, and entering into a new contract. According to WorkCompCentral ("WCC") they had contracted with the New York State Industry for the Disabled, to pay them $49.7 Million over five years. This is to scan "millions of pages of documents from hundreds of thousands of claims a year." That is roughly $10 Million annually expended scanning documents. 

The NY Board is cancelling that contract and will substitute a contract with Xerox instead. They anticipate "cost savings" from the switch to the new contract with Xerox, but there is no statement or prediction as to how much savings. They have also arranged for Xerox to make "a dedicated effort to employ disabled New Yorkers," essentially maintaining employment for those who were scanning for them under the prior contract. That is an admirable goal for certain. 

I am sure that some of that paper that is coming in to the Board is related to the regulatory side of the workers' compensation process. That is the functions of our Florida Division of Workers' Compensation. But, it is clear from the WCC story that significant volumes of the inbound paper is related to the litigation process  which the Board also manges. 

According to Robert Grey, a claimant's attorney cited by the WCC story, a document filed with the NY Board on a Monday may not have been scanned and docketed by that Friday when a hearing is to occur. He relates that this situation leads to complications regarding the judicial decision making. He opined that the "gap" between filing and the document's availability on the docket is seven to ten days. He attributed that to the vendor performing the scanning services. 

We have lived and worked through Florida's long OJCC transition  as old paper files were converted to digital images and loaded onto dockets and/or stored in archives. It was not a easy process. However, I think it is worth noting that the OJCC made that transition without contracting with anyone for scanning services. That transition came from the effort of our central and district clerks, secretaries, mediators, and even judges. No tens of millions of dollars were required.

The secret to making the e-filing process work is mutuality of benefit. While the NY Board is paying $10 Million annually to scan documents, the attorneys, insurance carriers, and employers there are paying postage to send that paper in to the Board. Employees are being paid to print documents, collate them, and stuff them into envelopes that they have addressed. There is much that those parties could save if they could instead convert their documents to PDF images and electronically load them into the docket. Likewise, with the PDF, there is no opening, sorting, or scanning on the receiving end.
We have built a system that is free. The system saves both the state and the users money. Lots of money. I calculate that our users (you) save about a million dollars annually. Best of all, the system lets the attorneys ad the documents into the case dockets and receive instant proof of filing. There simply is no "gap" here in Florida.

The earliest suggestions for a paperless OJCC met with skepticism. I have explained many times that the paper conundrum analogous to a reservoir, but instead of being filled with water, it is filled with paper. Lots of paper. Decades of paper in some instances.

For example, when we cleared one of our single-judge offices in about 2008, the volume of paper was about two Ryder trucks full. Much of that paper was obsolete and was destroyed. Much of it was scanned and archived.  
To drain the reservoir requires a two prong approach. The "inflow" must be stopped. A process for transmission of documents electronically is critical. However, even f the inflow is stopped, the existing volume must be "drained."

The mutual benefit of the electronic paradigm is benefitting the market in two ways. First, we are efficient and effective, saving on budget dollars and keeping the Trust Fund sufficient with minimal assessments. Second, we are saving money for those who do business with us, helping them avoid expenses like paper, toner, ink, envelopes and postage.

New York is spending about 24% ($10 Million/$42 Million) of the entire Florida regulatory/adjudicatory budget just on scanning documents. Florida's workers' compensation system has much about which to be proud.

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