The State of Florida, like many states, maintains a robust workers’ compensation statute geared toward insulating employees injured on the job from associated medical services. Now, lawsuits continue to be filed against debt collectors, hospitals and other medical providers alleging that under a novel interpretation of Florida’s workers’ compensation law, it is unlawful to attempt to collect medical debt arising from work-related injuries directly from consumers.
The Florida workers’ compensation statute provides, in relevant part, that “[an] employee is not liable for payment for medical treatment or services provided pursuant to this section except as otherwise provided in this section,” Fla. Stat. § 440.13(3)(g), and that “[a] health care provider may not collect or receive a fee from an injured employee within this state,” Fla. Stat. § 440.13(13)(a). Relatedly, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) as well as the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) generally prohibit false and misleading collection tactics, including the attempted collection from a consumer of amounts not owed.
These two principles have intersected in both Florida federal and state court decisions, which have interpreted the Florida workers’ compensation statute as prohibiting any attempts to collect a medical debt from a consumer where the amounts owed are subject to workers’ compensation.
Although it may be possible to identify a debt as subject to workers’ compensation where a formal petition for benefits has been filed, employees often first pursue their claims directly with their employers (or the employer’s insurance carrier) for which there is no public record, compounding the compliance difficulties. While the fact patterns in the published caselaw may reflect more straightforward presentations of this concept, the Florida workers’ compensation statute itself, as being currently interpreted, has the potential to create unmeted risk when engaging in the collection of medical debt.
To help you assess these risks and discuss methods to address them, I along with my partner Chris Hahn from our Boca Raton office have prepared a one-hour, online presentation for Wednesday, March 24 at 2 pm ET. Our topics include:
- What is driving this new litigation?
- It is not just debt collectors getting sued – why hospitals and other medical providers are facing claims.
- Current decisions and a look at the case before the Florida Supreme Court.
- Assessing and mitigating risk.
Reserve your spot by registering here. This presentation qualifies for one RMAI continuing education credit.