Worker’s comp rate hike rekindles GOP donor fightby John Kennedy | October 24th, 2011
Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty’s approval Monday of a sharp increase in worker’s compensation insurance rates paid by businesses is rekindling a fight between potent power bases of the ruling Florida Republican Party.
McCarty’s 8.9 percent rate hike drew scorn immediately from the business lobby, Associated Industries of Florida, which blamed higher health care costs on doctors pocketing extra money from repackaging prescription drugs they give worker’s comp patients.
“Almost one third of this rate increase is due to the ever-expanding practice of physicians dispensing repackaged drugs at prices exponentially higher than the statute allows pharmacies to charge for the same drugs,” said Jose Gonzalez, an AIF vice-president.
”Associated Industries of Florida will diligently seek the Legislature’s intervention to close this loophole during the 2012 session and allow Florida employers to use those millions of dollars to create new jobs rather than line the pockets of those who unfairly manipulate the system for their own gain,” Gonzalez said.
Over the past two years, Florida business groups have been scuffling with the Florida Medical Association, Florida Orthopedic Society and the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a Democratic power base, over the prescription repackaging issue.
Last year, lawmakers approved a measure backed by then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink that would have imposed new restrictions on doctors’ repackaging, lowering costs to the state and private companies. Sink, who lost to Republican Rick Scott in last fall’s governor’s race, was among those saying the change would have saved private companies $34 million in worker’s comp costs.
But then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the measure.
Among those supporting Crist’s veto in June 2010 was Automated Healthcare Solutions, a Miramar company headed by a pair of doctors, Paul Zimmerman and Gerald Glass, who later that summer gave more than $1 million to political spending committees headed by the Legislature’s then-incoming leaders, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon.
The company provides software that helps doctors dispense and manage patient prescriptions, a profitable sidelight for many doctors. Because the legislation vetoed by Crist would have imposed new restrictions on doctors’ repackaging, it also threatened Automated Healthcare’s services.
Zimmerman, the company’s CEO, says in a statement on the company’s website that its services are designed to “enhance revenue production by allowing physicians to retain profits.”
Haridopolos and Cannon last year used the money funneled from the doctors primarily to help then-Attorney General Bill McCollum in his losing Republican primary fight with Scott.
But with McCollum out of the picture, the doctors quickly pivoted following the campaign – pouring $735,000 into the Florida Republican Party and another $145,000 to Scott’s spending committee – in an attempt to make nice with the new GOP nominee, who is now a resident of the Governor’s Mansion.
And the doctors are still giving. While the business groups looking to cut worker’s comp costs aren’t shy about giving to the ruling state GOP, Automated Healthcare Solutions also has donated $203,500 to the party so far this year, records show, as it becomes more apparent another effort to rein-in repackaging is coming.