Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Eoyores Walk Among us

In 2017, I penned Negativity and your Inner Pooh. I described the attitudes that we each bring to our community. As I travel this road with you all, I see so many people channeling their inner Pooh. They are kind, generous, unassuming, and generally upbeat. But, I also noted there that the "Eeyores" walk among us also. That thought returned to me recently when I was reading a Bob's Cluttered Desk post on Defending Award Recognition for Injured Workers.

The post focuses upon a blog post written by an attorney, which questioned the efficacy, or point perhaps, of the Comp Laude Awards. In the interest of full disclosure, I have written about the Laude before. See Something New for Comp Laude 2016, Comp Laude Nominations Open, Comp Laude Overview, Community, and Commitment, Comp Laude Nominations, Comp Laude - Michael Made Me Do It!, Some 2018 Comp Laude Honorees, Comp Laude 2018 is Around the Corner, and 2017 Comp Laude Finalists Named. Some might discern a trend.

I have been proud to serve on the Comp Laude Advisory Board since 2016. I have been an attendee, a presenter, and even an honoree. And, there have been times I have been a critic. That is to say, I think criticism is a valid and important tool in our society. When we perceive fault or shortcoming, we should speak of it, engage others on it, and strive to remedy it. We all owe to our community the best efforts to measure and improve it. 

The post discussed by Bob Wilson focuses on the injured worker segment of our community. The author drew distinctions between catastrophic injuries and other workers' compensation injuries. I came away from the post with the perception that the author has concluded that the Comp Laude awards are imperfect. That is fair, we are all imperfect as is all that we create. We strive for better, aspire for perfect, but ours is a journey.

He points out that there are no injured worker honorees in 2019 in the category (essentially) of legislative advocate or agent of change. He also seems to advocate a greater breadth in the award recipients. He advocates that the awards process improve. There are admittedly many worthy workers who bear recognition, but who are fortunately not catastrophically injured. Bob Wilson found some common ground to agree with the post's author. In that vein of "bridge building," so have I. 

The award recipients are not perfect (note, I was a recipient once); not as individuals and not even collectively. There is room for greater geographical, ethnic, racial, gender, and background diversity (there may be other perspectives I forgot to mention, but these are examples). Certainly, there is room for consideration of advocates and non-advocates, union and non-union employees. 

There is room for discussion of the substance of workers' compensation, the potential we each hold to change the conversation about, and community of, workers' compensation. Some of the most admirable injured workers I ever encountered did something to change a workplace, a practice, a law, or a regulation. And, without the catastrophic injury the post mentions. In short, I agree that we can find much to admire in many diverse and different people; if we look. We can do all of this and more by channeling our inner Pooh (kind, generous, unassuming, and generally upbeat). 

Or, we can be Eoyore. We can deride and complain. We can diminish and dismiss. In short, complaining is easy, progress is hard. I went to collage with a many who was famous for walking through project after project always with a "you know what you ought to do . . . ." He always had advice, but never lifted a finger. He was a (self-proclaimed) font of wisdom. Advice is great, but there is so much more to the Pooh side of the equation. 

Let's never hesitate to be critical and thoughtful in our perceptions of this community. I have drafted and submitted many Laude nominations. A significant volume of those were selected as "finalists." Submitting a nomination requires about 5 minutes of your day. If your nomination proceeds to the "finalist" category, then you have to draft a more lengthy explanation of the candidate, obtain a digital picture, and recruit some references. But, in truth, submitting the supporting material for a "finalist" is not more than a 10-15 minute commitment. 

So, if you feel there is not enough diversity in the Laude winners, perhaps that is because there is not enough diversity in the nominees. And, you can make nominations. The field is open. If the winners do not look to you like they are representative, nominate those you feel would be. If you perceive some inclination toward some factor (catastrophic injury), nominate someone who lacks that and explain in your submission why you believe that person or entity has moved this community forward (there are various categories, one is "other"). What has the person or entity done to improve the conversation about workers' compensation? How has our community improved from their presence, attitude, effort, communication, or contribution?

I have drafted well over 1,000 blog posts, and dozens of Comp Laude nominations. In my experience, a Laude nomination takes far less time to draft. Don't complain about what you perceive is, do something to change what you perceive into what you would like.

In short, the story may not today be what you would like. The solution is to change the story. I am hopeful that everyone that reads this post will make one nomination. We must recognize those who inspire us. By making the nomination, you let someone know you value their contribution. I can assure you of one thing (which will likely disappoint the Laude officials): I was more flattered to be nominated than I ever was to be presented the Laude award. That someone thought enough of me to nominate me was one of the highlights of my career. Certainly, I was honored and flattered to be presented the award. But, honestly, my heart soared the day I received notification of the nomination. 

Laude judges cannot control that. You can do that for someone you appreciate, admire, respect, etc. You alone own the decision of nominating someone. You alone can change the conversation of workers' compensation. You alone, similarly, can thus change the Comp Laude itself. Make your nominations! Be the Pooh you can be! "Be the change you wish to see in the" Comp Community. And, this week, as you strive to be thankful, think of all that the Laude have already done to build collegiality and change the conversation about workers' compensation. I am grateful for what it is and what I think it can be. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Cybersecurity 2020

WorkCompCentral recently reported Cloud Security a Growing Concern for Insurers. The upshot is that insurance companies, large and small, are increasingly using data storage that is centralized and therefore perhaps more accessible. This centralized and "off site" storage of data, generally now in the hands of "a third party," is referred to as "cloud" storage. It is replacing the "on-premises" practices of the past.

Cybersecurity has been a critical concern for years. Information is a commodity that has inherent value. Companies collect data to enhance their business and functions. The unscrupulous seek to obtain that data and to apply it to their own ends either using or selling that data. That may be done by breaching a network from the outside, or perhaps by planting something on the inside, see Hardwired Hacking.

The transition of data from proprietary locations to "cloud-based systems" is fueling predictions "that cloud security will become a greater focus in the coming year." There has already been "an increase in spending on cybersecurity across the board” according to one expert who expects that spending "to accelerate.”

There is a perception that cybersecurity has been a secondary function, an "afterthought" of network design and construction. Systems were designed from the standpoint of function, data management, and user functionality. The article asserts that foundation is changing and that "instead, systems are being designed with security in mind from the start." And, the potential threats can come from any direction; the hardware, software, and people that are engaged could all present risks both purposeful and not. 

Security, it seems, is taking on a primary role. It is intriguing that transition would be limited to, or even primary to, cloud computing. It would seem more logical that such a shift to primacy of data security would be a logical paradigm change for anyone designing a computer network, in-house or "off-site." It is probable that is the actual focus, but that this article's focus on the cloud flavors the perspective in that direction. 

In either event, the insurance industry in general is focusing on security because it is dependent upon technology and computing. The article notes that systems, now including "cloud-based systems," are engaged in "underwriting, claims, billing, and data analytics." In these processes, insurance carriers come into possession of a vast array of private and proprietary information. 

There is therefore a critical need for carriers to protect that data from breaches. The news has been laced with examples of data breach around the country. Business Insider recently reported that "hackers have become so sophisticated that nearly 4 billion records have been stolen from people in the last decade." That is "billion" with a "b." By any measure of severity, that has to be accepted as a serious volume of data being compromised. 

Key points of that article include:
"The past decade has seen an explosion in the number of people entrusting massive tech companies with their personal data. There has also been a rise in large-scale data breaches and hacks."
"Of the 15 largest data breaches in history, 10 took place in the past decade. The two largest data exposures of all time happened in 2019."
"Organizations that fell victim to the attacks include Facebook, Target, Equifax, Adobe, and more."
"Data violations have only become more frequent in the past decade, according to a recent study."
The trend is thus toward increasing threats to data security. The largest, and perhaps we might suspect most sophisticated, entities in business have been victimized. Though we note that these entities are victims, it is more accurate perhaps to say that the customers of those entities are victims. While the company data may be of value to the criminals breaching these systems, it seems likely that the customer's data is the real target. 

Facebook advertises that (essentially) no matter what you are interested in, "there is a Facebook group for that." The Basset Hound group has been featured in their advertising. That got me wondering if there is a Facebook group for people whose identities and data have been hacked from Facebook? Some jokingly say that there is definitely a Facebook group for people whose private data has been sold by Facebook itself, the group is called "Facebook." Ouch, that one might hurt a little. The poignant point of that joke is that perhaps people are too trusting with their data to begin with?

The trend is for us to hear about data breaches when they are large-scale, affecting many people. When thousands or millions of people are potentially affected, the headlines will be vivid. But, what about the smaller businesses? Doctor, lawyers, insurance agents, and more store a vast array of information about their patients, clients, and customers. Might a hacker be interested in that data?

Or, might a hacker find interest in a small business because that business is interconnected with a customer or payer through an "in house" or "cloud-based" network? If the doctor's office computer can interface for records or billing with some host (like an insurance company), might that connection be exploited for a hacker's gain? Is it unreasonable to suspect that while the network at a big insurance company might be protected by a team of cybersecurity experts, the small business that interacts with the insurance company might be protected by nothing beyond a generic anti-virus program. In other words, the small business might be the weak link in a security cordon.

There is the threat of exploiting data through hacking and the Internet. But, there is also the threat of simple theft. An industry insider related to me how a company was bankrupted when there was a physical break in, and computer servers were physically removed. Those contained data, the same data one might expect to be hacked on the Internet. Perhaps this sort of theft is better because it is quickly known? Perhaps no sort of theft is any better than the rest. 

There are those who advocate, in the WorkCompCentral article, that the transition to a "cloud" includes a purchase of sophistication. They contend that those who use a cloud are putting their data "in the hands of technology specialists who can focus on security and maintenance issues." This, it seems, is an outsourcing of security for those who may not have sufficient expertise or sophistication to provide that protection internally. In this regard, there may be a distinction illustrated between the small and large enterprises in this proposed shift to the cloud.

WorkCompCentral also reminds that technology is evolving, something that has likely challenged each of us at some stage of our careers. There are evolving technologies, tools, and the coming evolution of artificial intelligence among our concerns. While small entities may lack the financial or intellectual foundations to appreciate and leverage those changes independently, the implication is that the cloud services will include that leverage in their products and pricing. 

For whatever reason(s), there is an apparent trend. The article notes that "cloud installations now represent more than half of insurance core systems." And in deployments, a recent report contended that "63% of insurers were looking to move more of their applications to the cloud in 2019." But, there is not much 2019 left. It will be interesting to see what the trend is in 2020.

Therefore, there are three issues. First is the decision regarding trusting your data to a third party, a "cloud." With that could come both benefits and burdens (if their sophistication fails, or if one of their users is lax, it could compromise your data). Second, more broadly, what are you options to protect your livelihood from hackers and other threats. Finally, what demands will your customers and business partners make upon you in regard to these or other security decisions. 

WorkCompCentral noted that a recent blog post by AmTrust said “workers’ compensation insurers need to be prepared for possible data breaches.” And, if we accept that as true then perhaps the same can be said of us all? The threat, it seems, is to us all: large, small, in between. Perhaps all of us need to focus more attention on our data, security, and protocols. Is it something we have even thought about recently? Shouldn't we?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Historic OJCC Stats 2019

The Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims produces an annual report each November. It is as comprehensive and inclusive as any I have seen in the world of workers' compensation. The reports are available on the website (under the "reports" tab). The report is required by Section 440.45(5), Florida Statutes, which delineates multiple metrics that must be addressed. The report, however, addresses more than is mandated, in an effort to convey the full scope of what this Office does. 

The Florida Legislature has seen fit to define three time parameters for this Office: (1) time to mediation, (2) time to trial, and (3) time to final order. These are in § 440.25(4)(d) Fla. Stat. (2003)(trial within 210 days of petition filing and order within 30 days of the conclusion of trial) and § 440.25(1), Fla. Stat. (2003)(mediation within 130 days of petition filing). It is believed that these statutory requirements resulted from legislative perceptions that this Office was not historically timely in its efforts. There are attorneys who can relate anecdotal examples of long waits for trials and orders before last century. Some can relate such instances even after the turn of the century. It is fair to say that some cases simply require more time than others. 

For sixteen years, these statutory time frames have been referred to and discussed in the annual report. Very rapidly after their implementation, the state mediators began collectively meeting the 130 day parameter for mediation. The process of "auto-scheduling" mediation appointments helped in that regard. However, the professional's focus upon meeting the parameter undoubtedly increased the compliance. By 2007-08, 100% of the state mediators was averaging less than 130 days from petition filing to the initial mediation (some cases are mediated more than once). In 2018-19, for the eleventh year in a row, the state mediators each averaged less than 130 days. 

The definition used by the OJCC for "trial" was consistent for many years between 2006-07 and 2015-16; it included a variety of hearings that each judge determined was "evidentiary." Then the definition was changed because a minority of Judges of Compensation Claims were reporting various simple, procedural, and stipulated matters, resulting in minimally involved orders as “trials.” The term was redefined to a more constricted population primarily merits orders on petitions and attorney fee/cost orders. Prior to that change in definition, the overall "time to trial" had dipped below the 210 day statutory parameter.

The change in definition made a notable impact on that in 2015-16, back to an average above the 210 days. Thereafter, the average performance for this metric did not return to under 210 days until 2018-19. 

The change in definition may also have affected the "time to order" measure. There was a notable increase in the days to order that year. However, the "time to order" trended back downward rapidly after 2015-16. Notably, the 14 day average for 2018-19 is less than half the statutory parameter of 30 days

These are overall aggregate averages of all the trial orders entered in a particular year. Notably in 2018-19 however, 100% of the Judges of Compensation Claims individually averaged less than 30 days between trial and order. That is a significant and noteworthy achievement. It is historical, because even in previous years when the overall aggregate average was within the 30 days, 2018-19 is the first time that 100% of the judges met this metric on average. In that, 2018-19 was a banner year for the performance of the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. 

It is possible that with increasing petition volumes, which will be addressed in a future post, that meeting these three metrics will be increasingly challenging. However, at this time the OJCC is proud to have met the three metrics for 2018-19 on average. More so the OJCC is proud that all mediators averaged less than the 130 days and all judges averaged less than 30 days between trial and order. That 100% individual effort is worthy of celebration and congratulation. It is indeed a proud day for this agency, and the credit belongs to the phenomenal individuals that serve as mediators and judges in the Florida OJCC.

Too often, we see or recognize organization. Too infrequently, we pause to recognize the individual. The individual is critical to the performance of any team. The OJCC is blessed with a team of outstanding individuals judges and mediators. We do not note their contributions often or loudly enough. But, we should.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

On Branding and Advertising

Law was once a profession. That is no longer the case, though there are still demands of professional behavior, professional standards. The profession of law haw evolved largely into the business of law. It is not hard to find the vestiges of professionalism. The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar include a chapter of Rules of Professional Conduct. The Florida Supreme Court and bar have jointly created the Latimer Center for Professionalism. Do not misunderstand, professionalism remains integral to and ingrained in the business of law.

Just over forty years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States interpreted constraints on lawyer advertising in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977). That interpretation is essentially that state advertising regulation must be balanced with the individual professional's First Amendment rights to expression and association. With it, some see the beginning of the legal transformation into the business of law. 

Lawyers are not alone. There was a time when physicians did not advertise, nor did hospitals. Some will note that other professions have also entered the advertisement paradigm, such as accountants, dentists, and architects. While there is a recognition that professionals advertising is somewhat recent, there is also support that overall advertisement as we know it is a reasonably recent phenomenon. And, the impetus for the evolution of marketing was allegedly based upon an oversupply for which a demand had to be generated. 

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recently published Are Cigarettes Responsible for Modern Marketing Methods? It contends that the modern ubiquity of branding was not the norm in the 1880s (140 years ago). The early adopters of the "awesome power of branding," was pioneered by Camel cigarettes. The BBC contends that following Camel's lead into branding were such companies as "Kellogg's cereal, Campbell's soup and Colgate toothpaste." Branding being the promotion of name and identity of the producer as opposed to strictly the product. 

The article describes various innovations that led to increased smoking, but describes the "starring role" of one James Bonsack. He is credited with building or adapting the first mechanical cigarette machine. With it, in 1881, the cigarette went from a "niche product" to a common product. Pre-rolled cigarettes could be machine produced at a rate of about "200 cigarettes a minute" which was about what a human "could make in an hour." As an aside, this illustrates again technology impacting jobs. But, as the demand was not as significant pre-machine, perhaps few jobs were actually lost? 

The result was a significant supply of cigarettes in search of a market, and marketing stepped up to create the demand. Some companies spent as much as "20 per cent of" "revenues on promotion," an unprecedented figure. Within forty years, cigarettes had surpassed chewing tobacco, pipes and cigars - they became "the most popular way for Americans to consume tobacco."

There were public perceptions in the 1990s that smokers unwittingly became addicted to smoking. The U.S. government began mandating the now ubiquitous Surgeon General warnings on packaging in the 1970s. It has now been almost 50 years that those warnings have been present, and yet people start smoking every day. There are those who feel other countries are doing a better job of warning citizenry of the dangers. See, Cigarette Pack Health Warning Labels in US Lag Behind World (noting more graphic, prominent, and emphatic warnings in other countries).

Despite perceptions, the BBC notes that dangers of smoking were advertised during the early branding of the products. When one brand promoted its use as an avoidance to candies, "sweet makers were outraged." Candy companies responded with advertisement that informed cigarettes would "inflame your tonsils, poison with nicotine every organ of your body, and dry up your blood - nails in your coffin." That is fairly direct? "Nails in your coffin?" The tobacco companies allegedly responded with the endorsements of physicians who said they smoked those products. 

The article notes that decades later the U.S. government eventually banned the involvement of physicians in such advertising. Then in the late 1940s and early 1950s there was at least some recognition that cigarettes were largely indistinguishable, homogeneous. The manufacturers were faced with admitting the uniformity of their product and competing on price, or turning to the concept of "branding." The authors explain that price competition "erodes profit margins," and contend that therefore the market turned to "branding." The personality and perception of those who smoked became critical. It was the birth of "the Marlboro man" and various slogans appealing to our personal vanity or self-perceptions. 

The BBC explains that in a market there is potential for the "consumer surplus." This drives our consumption; it is the "enjoyment the product produces, minus" what the product costs us (price primarily, but the detriments to a product might also be included in "costs"). What does our consumption of a product or service say about us, to us? Does that drive our decision to buy a particular brand of vehicle more than the attributes, benefits, and costs of that vehicle? Can the same be said of the clothes we wear, the restaurants we frequent, or any of our consumer choices? Is branding the overriding driver of our consumption?

The article concludes that these questions may be of concern to us as we make consumption decisions. It suggests that we, as consumers, have to be conscious of the impact that branding has on our decision making. To some extent that may be influenced by the what and how of branding that is permitted by government, as the evolution of cigarette advertising has perhaps illustrated. But, in the end, it may simply be up to us individually to make critical decisions about how we consume. 

In that regard, we may be challenged by the availability of information. There may be environments in which "the message" might be less clear than others. The BBC notes that despite our modern appreciation for the risks of tobacco, there are still major governments that regulate its advertisement less than the U.S. The article cites China, and the interrelationship between tobacco, taxes, and the role that the prestige of "premium brands," and branding overall may play in consumption. It points out ironies in the more recent shifts of consumption. Its conclusion is that "the power of brands to create credulity is still as strong as ever."

What do you convey? Is your reputation in your profession stellar? Are you marketing a service or product? Or, are you marketing a brand, your brand? Do you seek to influence the perceptions of the community you serve? What do you do to communicate your attributes and strengths, or merely those of your product/service? Or, do you remain above the fray of branding? Some introspection might help us each in better understanding the market and our individual or collective participation in it.  

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Conferences and Consequences

The Indiana Supreme Court recently rendered three consolidated decisions regarding Indiana judges. The first is In the Matter of the Honorable Andrew Adams (19S-JD-386); the other two are similarly styled but name Honorable Bradley B. Jacobs (19S-JD-566) and Honorable Sabrina R. Bell (19S-JD-567). It is a somewhat curious set of facts that ends with the Court's conclusion that these three judges will each be suspended without pay, a consequence of their decisions and (lack of) judgement. Some may argue that two of the three have been punished sufficiently already, but read on.

Two of the judges are from Clark County, Indiana (near Louisville, KY), the third from Crawford County (west from Louisville and Clarke County, toward Evansville). The judges found themselves in Indianapolis in May 2019 for a judicial conference (seemingly a chance for education and professional development). The Court concluded that they then behaved in an "injudicious manner," which devolved into violence, led to criminal behavior (on the part of the judges and others), and ended with two of the judges hospitalized with serious gunshot wounds. The incident made the national news, it is seemingly rare that Indiana makes the national news, unless it has to do with automobiles, basketball, or the weather. 

Courtesy CBS4Indy.com 

The Court noted that the judge's behavior was "embarrassing on a personal level," but more importantly "discredited the entire Indiana judiciary." Oh, Springtime Indiana. You know, springtime when all judges thoughts turn to heavy drinking, strip clubs, and White Castle hamburgers? Not. Some of you may not recognize the Castle. In college (I attended college about 60 miles from Indianapolis), we lamented and derided the absence of a local White Castle. The nearest one at that time was in Indianapolis. 

I knew many people that drove to get a "slider" as those little grease-pills were often called. But, I cannot recall ever knowing anyone to drive to Indy for one sober. It was a different era. Drinking and driving was just coming to the fore. Mothers Against Drunk Driving had just been formed (1980), and a great many people were all too eager to take an alcohol-fueled road trip for greasy late night food. In those days, any admission of having consumed White Castle was jovially met with accusations that alcohol was involved. Perhaps some things never change? 

The three Indiana judges, with two to four years each on the bench, arrived in Indianapolis, checked in to their hotel, and began drinking. Then, "at around 3:00 a.m., the group walked to a strip club," which was closed. Hint, if you are headed to a strip club at 3:00 a.m. "Danger Will Robinson." Thus, exercising their best judgement, they then "walked to a nearby White Castle." For whatever reason, they did not enter, but "stood outside." It is possible that it was closed or open for drive through only, but I have wondered why they stayed in the parking lot. At about 3:17, two men "drove past the group and shouted something out the window." 

One judge, the lady in the group, "extended her middle finger to" them in response and may have spoken, leading the motorists to park and get out to engage the judges in a deeper philosophical conversation. Deep philosophy and sharing ideas is common at 3:17 a.m. in parking lots? This interaction was recorded on video, which helped the Court apparently, because the level of intoxication allegedly made the judges' recollections a bit hazy. As the situation escalated, our intrepid judicial tourists made no attempt to "move to another location in the parking lot to avoid a confrontation or de-escalate the conflict." The shouting turned physical. One of the judges beat one of the motorists (apparently quite soundly). Then, one of motorists "shot Judge Adams once, and shot Judge Jacobs twice." Imagine that, a drunken melee at 03:00 turning from a beat-down into a shooting? No one could have seen that coming (sarcasm). 

The getting shot part is where some might argue that those two of the three judges have been sufficiently punished. Both underwent emergency surgeries. That is a very serious consequence of dumb behavior, and some sympathy for their suffering is both natural and appropriate. Both were tested at the hospital and demonstrated significant blood alcohol (0.157 and 0.13 respectively). The "middle finger" lady judge was not tested, but the Court reminded she was "intoxicated enough that she (says she) lacks any memory of the incident." Judge Bell did admit that she "drink(s) and get mouthy," and I’m fiery and I’m feisty." 

A grand jury indicted one judge (Adams) for multiple counts of battery regarding his physical assault on the motorist that night. There were charges of disorderly conduct against another (Jacobs). The "middle finger" judge, the lady in the group, was not charged. It is entirely possible that Judge Bell instigated the whole confrontation, beat down, and shooting devolution. Judge Adams later "admitted to kicking Kaiser (motorist) in a rude, insolent, or angry manner" (is there another way to kick someone?). Despite being sentenced to a year in jail, the privileged judge was allowed to serve only two days in jail. One may wonder why 99.99% of the sentence was suspended for this jurist who beat and kicked a motorist. Some might contend that itself might cause some to be curious about the Indiana judicial system. Or, perhaps such suspension of battery convicts is the norm in Indiana? 

The Court cites the Code of Judicial Conduct regarding integrity, public confidence, and impartiality. It mentions that judges must refrain from "participating in extrajudicial activities that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine" these qualities or the public's perception (verbal and physical assaults). The Court mentions that judges must "respect and comply with the law." Therefore, "Judges . . . must remain vigilant to guard against any actions that erode that public trust." Admittedly, that is quite a burden. It is not easy to live by the Code of Judicial Conduct, trust me. But, it is a burden for which we volunteer; it is not involuntarily thrust upon us. 

And, the Court concluded that these judges' "alcohol-fueled actions . . . fell far short of the Code’s directive." The Judges admitted that "their misconduct damaged the public’s respect for and confidence in the" state's courts. The Court found mitigating factors including no history of judicial or legal discipline, that they each accepted responsibility for their behavior, and their enrollment in counselling programs (presumably for alcohol, perhaps for stress, anger, or other issues). 

The Court did note that two of the judges "suffered serious physical injuries." And, that the "middle finger" judge attempted to stop the physical confrontation, sought help from those inside of White Castle once the fighting started, and called 911 immediately when the shooting began. The "middle finger" judge who apparently instigated things with her unladylike sign language was thus seen as striving to later deescalate what she perhaps started. But hey, she's just "fiery" and "feisty." In her defense, I suspect she is neither the first or last judge that has engaged such sign language communication. 

The Court concluded that all three should be suspended from the bench. The "middle finger" judge who may have started it all (Bell) received "a 30-day suspension without pay,“ as did Judge Jacobs. The Court characterized this as "among the most severe sanctions short of removal from office." Judge Adams was "suspended without pay . . . for sixty (60) days." These judges are earning about $130,000 per year (about $11,000 per month). The financial penalty is therefore significant. 

From any perspective, it was a disgraceful set of events and Court conclusions. In the end, all three judges are certainly lucky to be alive. Whether the Court was severe enough in its punishment is up to the reader. 

The story reminded me of a 2017 Florida story New Broward judge accused of drunken, anti-Hispanic comments at judicial conference. This reported on a judge attending a judicial conference, consuming alcohol, and then making untoward comments to a worker at the host hotel. That led to the Office of the Public Defender filing to disqualify the judge based on the perceptions of expressed animus or bias. Such perceptions, and the legal machinations that follow disrupt the judicial process. They affect how the public views the judge, and more importantly the entire justice process. And, it all began with alcohol. 

It also reminded me of Judge Arrested on Intoxication Charge. That case was memorable for me because I had been on the bench for only weeks when it broke. I was just beginning to study judicial ethics and the Code of Conduct. This judge was arrested at a conference. She was discovered by a security guard at about 2:00 a.m. laying "in a third-floor hallway." Allegedly, "she was wearing no pants or underpants." When the guard approached, she reportedly arose and fled." She was apprehended, and when police arrived to take custody she "was extremely intoxicated and verbally combative." In the police car, as she was taken to detention, the judge made allegations that she had been the victim of a sexual assault. There was discussion in the article about something being placed into her drink by a person or persons unknown. 

These instances are all of interest to me. They share some characteristics. Each involved a judicial conference of some kind; Judges away from their actual work environment for important enrichment and educational experiences that were nonetheless work. Each involved alcohol, and some apparently involved significant volumes of it. Two of the events involved very late night activities. And, all three likely affected the public's perception of the judiciary and those who serve. 

I was privileged to mentor a Boy Scout troop for several years. I got to work with some great volunteers who were devoting their time. It was common for that to include various opportunities for wisdom to be conveyed to youths. One of my favorites repeatedly came from a wizened scout leader. He would tell the scouts "nothing good happens after midnight." He would relate this to various situations, and encourage the scouts to remember that in their futures, in college, in life, etc. Essentially: "by midnight, be off the roads, in your bed." 

Perhaps that wisdom would have helped some of the judges in these situations. Perhaps, instead, ill circumstances will find us regardless of our efforts. It is certainly hard to prevent someone putting something in your drink. But, you rarely hear about these kind of situations occurring at 9:30 p.m. in the hotel bar. I would suggest that once you have decided, at 3:00 a.m. to visit a strip club as a judicial field trip, the engine is off the rails and it only remains to be seen how long it will take for the rest of the train to follow. Nothing good is going to happen from a 3:00 a.m. trip off-campus in search of excitement. In such a search for excitement, the odds are you will find it, and odds are it will not be good. 

Judges must remain persistently cognizant of their role and responsibilities. Perhaps it is best to simply remain sober in public? I enjoy a drink as much as the next person, but I have made a conscious decision not to publicly exceed three drinks, and never drive after consuming. If we are not going to remain sober, perhaps one might commit to remain in the host hotel? If leaving, maybe inviting along a fellow judge that is sober might help with judgement and driving? I also enjoy a good hamburger like anyone else, but if it is 3:00 a.m., maybe not at such a venue? Perhaps a "hard rule" against communicating with sign language, verbally accosting passers by, or physically beating/kicking those you accost? Imagine the different outcome if these three Indiana judges had simply ordered a bottle of alcohol and some hamburgers from room service? 

Judgement is imperfect. Retrospect is 20/20. We will all make mistakes, missteps, and misstatements. There is simply too much human in our human nature. But we can strive against the potentials; strive to avoid the high risks. We must work to identify situations that are more likely to deteriorate than others, and to avoid them. We cannot be perfect, but we can work to minimize our exposure to situations in which trouble might find us. And, we simply must. It is an embarrassing day for Indiana. Possibly there is more to the story that the Court chose not to publicize, more mitigation or consideration. But, if the published facts are complete, there are some who would conclude that these three judges simply have no place in the judiciary. In years of considering judicial applicants, I can never remember anyone touting their qualifications with "appoint/elect me judge," "I’m fiery and I’m feisty." 

I find myself chagrined to be associated, however remotely (geographically, temperamentally, ideologically), with these jurists. As much as it is a sad and embarrassing day for Indiana, I would suggest that it is a sad day for our justice system, and the public's faith in it. Can the public possibly not see the disgrace? Can they possibly forgive it? 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A New Day at the WCI

The Workers' Compensation Institute recently made an announcement of additions to its leadership team. The press release of November 5, 2019 is online There are many that have attended the WCI in Orlando at some point. In something resembling its current form, the WCI has been going on for 32 years. It has featured programming on virtually every workers' compensation topic, provided varied perspectives, and drawn a diverse spectrum of workers' compensation professionals. 

I recall my first trip there in 1992. The program was all presented in the ballrooms and meeting rooms of the Peabody Hotel on International Drive. The concert on Monday night was in the breezeway where cars would normally stop to discharge passengers. And the crowds were significant. So significant, I could never get a hotel room at the conference hotel or a seat in the restaurants at meal time. I recall many walks up International Drive in search of sustenance. 

Ponder on that for a moment, 32 years. Where were you in 1987? The Berlin Wall still stood then. The FDA had just approved AZT to begin the long road of treating a fairly new malady - AIDS. The Simpsons premiered on television. The big political news was Iran/Contra hearings on Capitol Hill. It was, in short, a different world. If you remember these, you are old like me. If you don't, I am glad you are reading this as you are the next generation, or perhaps the one after that. 

Well, as legend has it, in 1987 four attorneys agreed to take on the challenge of providing workers' compensation education: Jim McConnaughhay, Steve Rissman, David Parrish, and Gerry Rosenthal. With a breadth and depth of experience in workers' compensation, with knowledge of how to run a law firm, these four dove head-first into the education business. The success of the WCI program is attributable to their dedication, commitment, and ability to recruit and motivate an assortment of steadfast volunteers. 

And, the results speak for themselves. As the press release notes, 32 years later it is the largest workers' compensation conference in the United States. It offers a breadth of topics that is astounding: 250 sessions, 500 speakers, 7,000+ attendees. At a given moment, one might delve into developing trends, medicine, rehabilitation, regulation, and more. In the interest of full disclosure, I have been privileged to work on various projects with WCI over the years, I have been a speaker on many solo and panel stages, and I have been an enthusiastic cheerleader for this Florida venued expose on all that is workers' comp. I am also honored to serve on the Program Committee for the last decade and more recently the Board of Advisors. It is fair to say I believe in the mission of this annual conference. Education is critical to our success in delivering for America's employees and employers. 

But, the 32 years has not come without cost. The organizers, the "four" have invested countless hours and effort into this program. It is fair to note that the passage of time has seen both program and life changes. Through the changes, Jim and Steve have become iconic in their efforts to both build and diversify this program, its volunteers, and its audience. It seems like every year brings a new breakout, a new constituency, or a new discussion. I have personally learned much from both the preparation for and deployment of this program over the various years of attendance. 

2019 brought changes. Change is the only true constant in the world, to which the constant evolution of the program attests. But one of the changes is that we are all a little bit older. In recognition that the conference will continue to evolve and grow, Jim and Steve recognized that it is time to bring in additional management to augment and supplement their efforts. This will both help to reduce their stress and to put additional effort and energy into the mix of developing the best educational opportunities possible. 

Thus, in stepped a host of industry leaders that bring a diverse and often intriguing perspective to the management of such an operation. The Board of Advisors is indeed an elegant collection of experiences, ideas, and perspectives. I find myself learning from their presence. They come from industry (employers), safety, legal, and risk backgrounds. They are (we are) focused on assisting the management of the WCI to build on the success of the past. 

But additional management is the real news, the appointment of Associate Executive Director Julie Fetherman. Her role is a direct supplement to the efforts of Jim and Steve. She will bring a more generalized business management experience to a successful management team. And, she will bring a largely fresh perspective to the table. That is always beneficial. Organizations need to periodically ask "why do we do this" or perhaps "why this way?" New perspectives are good for that analysis. When we work in the trenches we become acclimated to the way things are, and we may lose the curiosity to ask why. We each hold the potential for both complacency and innovation. 

Ms. Fetherman brings an innovative spirit to the process. Her comments focus us on maintaining what the WCI Conference has become, on continuing "cutting edge education." But, the innovative element is also illustrated in her mention of "facilitating growth" and taking the conference "to the next level." In any endeavor, there is likely room for improvement. My study of business so many years ago included discussions of inspired innovation, building on successes, and effective management. So much of that classroom experience has come back to me through the last year as the Board of Advisors has coalesced and the management augmentation has begun. WCI is lucky to have Ms. Fetherman join the team. 

With it, the future of this important workers' compensation event is encouraged. With evolution and adaptation, there is every probability that the Workers' Compensation Institute will be preparing in some 32 more years for the 2052 Educational Conference. The world will include workers' compensation, safety, and more. We could perhaps predict some subjects and topics that program will include. Some things endure. But, it is likely that program will be as different from 2019 as our last program was from 1987. Change is inevitable. 

Where the future takes our need for education and training may be hard to predict. What is easier is predicting that we will all need the collegiality, sharing, and learning that are facilitated. And, by "we" I speak of those of us striving today but more so of the next generation to come. The leaders of tomorrow are among us today. They yearn for the reigns and struggle with putting their education and experiences to the test of leadership. The WCI is investing in its next generation and looking to its future. The simple question I have for you today is "are you?" 

I have mentioned time and again in this platform that mentoring is critical. For your business to maintain and grow, regardless of your product or service, the secret is in attracting, training, mentoring, and fostering the next generation. We must recognize where we are, attract new talent to us, engage them, and prepare them to take over. I sense WCI's recognition of that path. Does your enterprise reflect that path? Are you passing on all that you are and that you know to the next generation?

The future is promising. I will most assuredly not be in attendance at the 2052 WCEC in Orlando. But, some of our current attendees will be. They will be older, grayer, and likely lamenting how fast it all went by them. 2052 will bring a program of their making, focused on their needs. It will get there through evolution, not revolution; through vision and planning. With the changes in 2019, that planning and evolution has begun and through it we will see dinosaurs like me fade as tomorrow's best and brightest move to the fore. 

I welcome the next leaders and applaud them. I look forward to assisting them if I can as they take the educational conference and our workers' compensation community to new heights and success. Perhaps in 2052 someone will happen across this (then) ancient blog and know that we were both cognizant of our history and focused on the next generation's success. Perhaps this will remind them to be the same as the reigns are passed yet again to that next generation that will take this community to 2084? As we fade to the back of the stage, let us each invest in tomorrow's leaders. It is their world in which we will live. If we have done our jobs, that world will thrive. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Attorney Fees 2019

The 2019 OJCC Annual Report is nearing completion. It will be published before December first. It will be posted on the OJCC website (www.fljcc.org) at that time. This report is 250+ pages of pure reading enjoyment (though it might also put you to sleep if you try to take it all in at once). 

An issue that generates multiple questions every fall seems to be "what were the attorney fees?" As the report is in its final proofing, this post will share the answer to that specific question.

Note that Claimant fees are documented and recorded when orders are signed to approve them. The data is dependent upon the lawyers who complete those affidavits and fee data sheets for accuracy. Thus, it is possible for a fee to be labelled as a "percentage" or an "hourly" fee by the attorney receiving the fee. Unless the assigned judge makes a specific finding to contradict such characterizations, the data collection process relies on the attorney representation(s). Defense fees are reported in aggregate total by the company that paid them (thus we do not collect how much was spent by "ABC" Insurance on each case, merely how much ABC overall spent on defense fees).

During 2018-19, a total of four hundred seventy-three million nine hundred thirty-seven thousand and thirty one dollars ($473,937,031) was paid in combined claimant attorneys’ fees and defense attorneys’ fees (and perhaps defense “costs”) in the Florida worker’s compensation system. This represents a small increase, about 5%, from the 2017-18 aggregate fee total of four hundred fifty-three million one hundred seventy-nine thousand one hundred ninety-one dollars ($453,179,191) in 2017-18. The aggregate attorney fee total for the system has increased in each of the last four fiscal years.

The 2016-17 increase in fees following Castellanos v. Next Door Company, 192 So. 3d 431 (Fla. 2016) and Miles v. City of Edgewater, 190 So. 2d 171 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016) was significant and was seen as supporting that further fee total increases were likely. The continued increases in 2017-18 and 2018-19 support that hypothesis. The 2018-19 increase of 9% resulted in the highest claimant attorneys’ fee total ($216,905,845) since the 2003 amendments to the Florida workers’ compensation law.

The aggregate attorneys’ fees in Florida workers’ compensation was close to a 50/50 distribution in 2002-03, but aggregate claimant fees decreased and employer/carrier fees first increased markedly and then decreased at more moderate pace, resulting in a significant disparity between claimant and defense fees. Beginning in 2009-10, the defense portion exceeded 60% for seven years, peaking at almost 64% in 2015-16. However, the significant increase in claimant fees in 2016-17, followed by notable growth in 2017-18 (7%) and 2018-19 (9%), and comparatively nominal growth in defense fees in those two years (less than 1%) has markedly decreased the defense fee percentage. Despite that, the defense fees remain in excess of 54% in 2018-19. Over the sixteen years since the 2003 legislative reforms, claimant fees are currently up about 3% overall and defense fees are up about 19%.

The notable increase in claimant attorneys’ fees in 2016-17 was mostly attributable to hourly attorneys’ fees for litigation of issues. The marked increase in 2017-18 and 2018-19 was instead attributable to claimant-paid attorney fees related to settlements.

The Department of Labor and Employment Security (“DLES”) compiled data regarding the attorneys’ fees paid to claimants’ counsel for a number of years. In the DLES 2001 Dispute Resolution Report, fees for calendar years 1988 through 2000 were reported. These figures are accepted at face value. According to the data including these DLES figures, claimant fees in 2019 (aggregate) were the second highest total since 1988. Notably, there has been significant inflation over those years, and the inflation-adjusted figures might tell a different story.

Despite that, these figures are helpful for broad comparisons with current fees and trends. Notably, the DLES figures (1988-2001) for claimant attorneys’ fees likely include costs, as the ability to easily differentiate fees from costs did not exist until the OJCC database was deployed in 2002.

The Castellanos effect:
The effects of the Castellanos decision were apparent in the 2016-17 attorney fee figures (non-settlement, hourly fees in green below). Claimant’s fees increased overall 36.07% that year. The majority of that increase was in the category “non-settlement hourly” fees. That category (likely E/C-paid) increased from $25,866,295 in 2015-16 to $75,353,918 in 2016-17, an increase of almost $50 million (+191%). By comparison, there was a much less significant increase in the settlement fees (likely Claimant-paid) from $94,422,559 in 2015-16 to $99,066,123 in 2016-17, an increase of about $4.5 million (+5%).

The Miles Effect
The effects of Miles (settlement fees in blue above) were comparatively less apparent in 2016-17, but are illustrated better in 2017-18 and 2018-19. In 2017-18, the “non-settlement hourly” fees (Castellanos) decreased from the $75,353,918 in 2016-17 to $70,013,393 (-7%); in 2018-19, there was some increase in that total ($71,584,645; 2%. However, the settlement fees (Miles) increased from $99,066,123 in 2016-17 to $118,069,209 (+19%) in 2017-18; the increase continued at similar pace (+18%) up to $139,343,544 in 2018-19. Such an increase might be explained by a greater volume of represented settlements, a higher value of those settlements (upon which the fee is calculated), or a greater portion of those settlements being paid in fees.

The data does not support that the aggregate value of settlements increased significantly in 2017-18 (+1.71%), as illustrated in the graph below; as the settlement fees increased 18% in 2018-19, the aggregate settlement dollar value decreased slightly (.33%). In sum, the total aggregate of dollars in represented settlements has also not demonstrated significant change. The changes were: 2015-16 (-2.8%), 2016-17 (-.4%), 2017-18 (1.7%), and 2018-19 (-.33%). The figures for each of the last five fiscal years are illustrated below.

The volume of represented settlements likewise has not changed significantly. The changes were: 2015-16 (2.2%), 2016-17 (-1.1%), 2017-18 (.5%), and 2018-19 (1.6%).

Thus, the increase in settlement fees seems appropriately attributed primarily to Miles, though some may propose other causes. As of this writing, no other explanation has been proposed. That case has been interpreted by some as allowing claimant-paid fees to exceed the statutory formula in section 440.34(1), Florida Statutes without demonstration of case-specific constitutional infirmity or implication.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Re-Socialization of Socialism

The entire concept of workers' compensation is socialistic. There are those who would argue that all insurance is socialistic, a spreading of the risk of injury of some across a population of many that collectively pays the cost. It is notable in that broader argument that in some respects, the purchase of insurance remains voluntary. But, various forms are increasingly mandated either by the government or by market forces.

For example, there was a time when health insurance coverage was voluntary. Obamacare strove to make it a mandatory purchase, though it failed to effectuate full market coverage. One of the riddles of that legislation is in its mandate of coverage that did not result in 100% coverage. There are those who contend that it did not even significantly increase market purchases. They contend that the reported increases in "coverage" following that law largely came from the concomitant expansion of federal health programs like Medicare, taxpayer supported socialistic group underwriting of individual needs. It is another example of legislative effort or intent that resulted in less than universal success. 

But, workers' compensation is largely mandatory. This statement cannot be more committal because not every state mandates workers' compensation (Texas), and most states with mandatory participation nonetheless allow a certain volume of employers to avoid participation due to their size or other exceptions. In Florida, there are extensive definitions of "employer" and "employee" for the purposes of workers' compensation, see section 440.02, Fla. Stat. These include specific inclusions and exclusions. There is also the general and broad constraint of "in which four or more employees are employed." 

Thus, there are populations of independent contractors, small businesses, and specific occupations that are not part of the workers' compensation process. The fact remains that any worker there employed might nonetheless suffer an injury that could require significant care and/or result in significant disability. It is possible that in such an event a worker not covered by workers' compensation might nonetheless be provided care and even support through a variety of other socialistic government programs and plans. 

The Florida Supreme Court long ago noted that: 
"the fundamental purpose of workmen's compensation is to relieve society of the burden of caring for an injured employee by placing the burden on the industry involved." Sullivan v. Mayo, 121 So.2d 424 (Fla. 1960). 
The perception is, or was, that in the absence of workers' compensation, the individual loss or damages might necessarily be more than an individual could afford. In that instance, the care or support might well impact the broader social safety nets that government has seen fit to implement, private charity, or merely destitution. 

This somewhat involved interaction of industrial and government socialization, and the complexities of workers' compensation recently struck me reading Bill Would SpreadFirefighter Cancer Claims Cost to All Policyholders on WorkCompCentral. It is an informative article that notes the American trend to legislate workers' compensation coverage for special employees regarding certain diagnoses, notably cancers. In the spirit of other "presumption" laws, these bills provide a greater volume of coverage for employees deemed worthy by their state's legislature. 

There is a contention that firefighters suffer cancer at higher rates than the rest of us. I have heard a great deal of testimony and exposition on the subject. It is fair to say that there remains disagreement regarding at least some of the science and conclusions regarding some firefighter cancer diagnoses. What is clear, however, is that various legislatures have reached the conclusion that at least certain cancers suffered by certain employees should be specifically socialized in the workers' compensation process, or in even more specialized methods that seek to prevent such care and disability contributing to the larger social safety net burden. 

Some would argue that their decision in that regard is no different than the decision to include those employed by businesses with "four or more" while excluding those who work on their own or in smaller businesses. Note that excluding the smaller employer does not immunize those workers from injury, it merely alters the (arguably) socialistic path to recompense. These would therefore argue that there are various legislative decisions that effect distinction between and among the various people that face the potential or workplace injury and illness. There is at least some merit in those contentions. 

One of the complaints that is voiced regarding the "cancer presumption" in favor of firefighters is that it affects a disparate impact on municipalities, counties, airports, and others. It is notable that most businesses do not employ firefighters. Firefighters tend to be employed by government or quasi-government employers. Thus, the "cancer presumption" is of perhaps little interest to a restaurant, retail, or service employer (among others). As the restaurant employs no firefighters, there is no cost to restaurants when the legislature enacts such a presumption. That cost falls to the city, county, etc., which likely has the ability to either task existing revenues to the cost, or to increase revenues (tax or fees) for the cost. 

Arguably, there may arguably be a broader benefit. Consider that a firefighter with cancer that is not compensable in a state's workers' compensation system might turn to social safety nets such as Medicare, welfare, and more. Those costs are spread across society. Thus the cost of Medicare covering a firefighter cancer is shared by all taxpayers, presumably including that restaurant mentioned above. Alternatively, a firefighter might seek care from group health insurance, and that impact might be felt by all policyholders in their premium. Therefore, the "cancer presumption" perhaps returns the cost of cancer from the larger societal safety nets to "the industry involved." 

But Ohio seems curious about re-socializing the impact of cancer that was presumably thus re-focused with its firefighter presumption. After that presumption shifted the responsibility for some population of cancers largely onto the municipalities (or others that employ firefighters), and off of the general population, the state is considering shifting it back. As reported by WorkCompCentral, municipalities claim to be struggling with the cost of the cancer presumption. The solution proposed is to shift the liability for those cancers to the state, funded by a "Surplus Fund." This is a fund that is supported by the breadth of workers' compensation, the broader marketplace of employers. 

The proponents of this characterize it as a "relatively painless approach to paying for" such claims. One attorney suggested "that if the cost of a claim doesn't impact the employer, then they would not" resist or fight such claims. The attorney cited statistics that the great majority of Ohio firefighter cancer claims have been litigated issues since that law passed. The perception expressed is seemingly that the Ohio firefighter employers are engaged in litigation not because of their perceptions of either law or specifics, but more so due to benefit costs. The contention seemingly is that when the burden falls to others, there is less probability of principled opposition. An interesting hypothesis. 

More broadly, there is perhaps room to question the foundation and structure of any statute. One might conclude that the volume of Ohio litigation is a symptom of uncertainty or clarity, and perhaps that therefore language might be revised. In other words, the complained-of volume of litigation might be resulting from an unclear and ill-defined statutory construct that creates rather than resolves uncertainty and questions. Statutory drafting and revision might resolve such issues, if indeed they exist. The Ohio solution, to retain the employee benefit, but to simply re-socialize the cost to all of the Ohio employers is another approach. 

Notably, there may be a sound argument that firefighters do not limit their efforts to municipal fires and accidents; they respond to anyone's fire or accident. That service is supported by tax dollars. The entire community benefits from their presence, so perhaps it is appropriate for the whole workers' compensation system to compensate the risk associated with their service, in the perceptions of the legislature? In that context, others might argue that everyone in the market is already paying their share for this government cost, in the form of the taxes that they pay. They might argue that shifting the costs to a state fund merely allows the municipalities and others who hire firefighters to avoid the otherwise necessary tax or spend decisions required to budget for the expense. 

There may also be an argument that the industry (firefighting) should bear the cost of any perceived risk that emanates from it. That would be more in line with Sullivan, and a variety of similarly worded court decisions around the country. That argument might be that it makes more sense for the people to know those costs, and for tax bills to reflect the collections that are necessary for them. Those taking this argument might contend that by instead shifting the burden to all workers' compensation employers, the "real" cost is being concealed or obscured. 

At the end of the day, Ohio's policy makers seem to be in a debate about their recent presumption creation. Their dilemma is about the cost, which may or may not have been considered when the legislature adopted the policy position of this presumption. The question will be whether the legislature addresses the cost in terms of appropriateness, addresses the statute in terms of clarity and predictability, or instead addresses some manner of deflecting the cost objection through re-socializing, in a non-taxation method, the cost across a broader population than merely the municipalities. 

A legislative aid was quoted by WorkCompCentral attempting to encapsulate the dilemma: 
“The goal is to get rid of the appeals on these cancer claims as much as possible . . .. These firefighters need benefits; they have a lot of medical expenses. But municipalities need help, too." 
Thus a recognition of the two critical salient points. Someone has to pay the cost of the cancer and resulting disability. When the decision is made as to whom (the employee, the municipality, group health, etc.) then the concomitant decision of how they will pay is necessary. There is no discussion in the article about the "easy" solution of merely raising taxes to pay for the legislature's institution of this presumption. Regardless of how Ohio meets the perceived concerns, there may be similar questions as to other states. While that Ohio statute is two years old, the Florida firefighter cancer bill is less than a year. Whether Florida will face the volume of resistance and litigation described remains to be seen, as do the costs the bill will bring to those who employ firefighters. 

However, some quoted in the article cast doubt there will be similar efforts at some "fund" or re-socialization of firefighter cancer in other states. They note multiple concerns for such a solution in a "market-based insurance" (Ohio's system is state owned and run). In the end, however, it is critical to remember that legislatures make a myriad of difficult choices in defining the parameters of workers' compensation coverage and benefits. The overall workforce is diverse, as is industry. There are so many variables and considerations with which they must contend. It will be interesting to see how Ohio deals with the decisions it has made, their implications, and the potential solution of re-socializing the broader costs.