The Miami Herald
A promising effort to repair the state’s broken
Personal-Injury Protection system has run into
last-minute wrangling as the Legislature prepares to
adjourn. This threatens to doom a desperately needed
repair of auto insurance for Florida’s consumers.
Florida is one of the worst places for PIP fraud. It
is home to four of the 10 worst cities in the nation for
this racket: Tampa, Orlando, Miami and Hialeah.
The fraud consists of phony claims involving the
$10,000 of medical coverage available to every driver
under the state’s mandatory PIP law, sometimes referred
to as Florida’s no-fault law.
Staged accidents that involve phony clinics and fake
claims allow organized crime to scam millions of dollars
every year. That hurts everyone. Consider a family of
two drivers earning $40,000 a year. The average premium
for that Miami family would be $1,861 — an unsustainable
13 percent of their income.
A study led by the state’s Insurance Consumer
Advocate found that State Farm Mutual had increased its
PIP rates by 50 percent since 2009, GEICO by 77 percent,
and Progressive by 63 percent. Ouch!
The current system benefits PIP fraudsters. But
because so much money is at stake and so many special
interests are involved, the Legislature has repeatedly
failed to enact reform.
Both the House and Senate have approved different
versions of a reform effort that Gov. Rick Scott has
made a priority. However, last-minute differences
threaten to block progress. Lawmakers must keep trying,
for the sake of everyone in Florida with car insurance.
The House version tightens the rules to make it
harder to set up phony clinics and clamps down on
needless reimbursement claims, as well as the number of
visits and treatments that any alleged victim can claim.
The Senate version, according to state insurance
experts, would have little or no impact on premiums.
The Senate should embrace House reforms and settle
this issue. If not, Gov. Scott says he will call a
special session, which will only make it costlier for
Florida taxpayers. Why wait? Fix PIP now.