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Florida PTSD Workers’ Comp Bill

There has recently been much debate over a proposed bill that would provide workers’ compensation to first responders affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although the bill was filed earlier this year, it just recently passed the Banking and Insurance Committee. However, the bill has faced scrutiny which would create a hurdle to its being passed into law.

Pushing Toward Legislative Approval

The bill, SB 376, was sponsored by Florida Senate minority leader Lauren Brook. The proposed bill passed the Banking and Insurance Committee in a unanimous vote, making a strong case that it could be passed into law. The bill will now go to the Senate Tourism and Commerce Committee for further review.

The proposed bill would provide workers’ comp benefits for those suffering from mental or nervous injuries. These injuries would be covered regardless of whether they were accompanied by physical injuries. This language was amended from a previously-filed bill that stipulated that PTSD injuries must be accompanied by a physical injury in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation.

The new bill also clarifies that any first responder arriving at the scene who then suffers from PTSD is eligible to receive workers’ comp, as opposed to the original legislation that stated first responders must have witnessed the event.

The legislation was born because of the mass shooting that happened at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. It has garnered the support of many first responders. James Tolley, president of the Florida Professional Firefighters Association, has said that combatting post-traumatic stress and cancer-causing exposures are the two biggest priorities for his group. He stressed his belief that responders should be able to get the help they deserve.

Resistance Against The Bill

While protecting first responders seems like a no-brainer, there are many who are fearful of the bill’s cost and fraud risk. One of the groups offering the most pushback is the Florida League of Cities, which represents the state’s municipal governments.

David Cruz of the Florida League of Cities legislative council believes that the cost of the bill needs to be addressed before moving forward. Previously, the cost has not been cited because there were too many undefined factors at play. Cruz believes that taxpayers would be the ones shouldering the burden of funding this bill.

Cruz cited a study from the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation that revealed that similar legislation would cost Ohio $182 million annually. Since Florida is a more populous state than Ohio, it’s reasonable to assume that the costs would be higher. However, Senator Book contends that the cost of not helping PTSD victims is even higher than it would be to help them.

Other issues seem to stem from how broad the bill is, another concern raised by the League of Cities. The American Insurance Association also expressed concern over mental stress claims that were not accompanied by a physical injury. They believe that the system would eventually evolve into a system of general health insurance for psychological injuries.