In January of this year, the much-heralded and hastily legislated Florida Workers Compensation Joint Underwriting Association officially became operational--operational, that is, in the sense that offices were set up and telephone numbers established. How effective the JUA has been today, however, is open to question.
The Insurance Advocate was recipient of a press release from James Bax of the JUA back in December of last year, shortly after the legislation was passed to establish the facility and just prior to its effective date. The purpose of the communication seemed to be that this was an important move forward for the Florida W.C. residual market and that the "story" behind the JUA was worth telling.
However, in the ensuing months, up until this date, representatives of the JUA have continually failed to respond to our inquiries, even insofar as providing basic background materials.
One might begin to suspect that something is seriously wrong. In fairness, this writer hastens to say the JUA was conceived, legislated and started up in a very short period of time. Having said that, however, one must ask how good a job it is doing or will be able to do for its policyholders and the agents who represent them if they are unable to respond over a three month period to only simple requests.
This is not editorial pique, although our frustration should be understandable. The establishment of the Florida Workers Compensation Joint Underwriting Association was a major accomplishment in the state given the crippling workers' comp environment under the old Assigned Risk Plan approach.
The Florida Association of Independent Agents (FAIA), which did respond rapidly to our calls, has been in the forefront of the move to establish such a facility and currently has one of its members on the JUA's board of directors. Prior to the passage of the legislation creating the facility, the FAIA, in a position paper wrote:
"The Workers' Compensation Assigned Risk Plan's perennial deficit is the sole responsibility of Florida's voluntary market insurance companies. Crippling deficit assessments are forcing companies to cut back on their Comp business or withdraw from the market altogether. Florida's Assigned Risk Plan--the market of last resort for high-risk insureds--funds claim-paying and expense deficits through assessments against insurance companies. A company assessment is based on the percentage it writes of all the voluntary market Comp. coverage sold.