By: Jeff Atwater
The Tampa Bay Times
This year the Legislature took on the challenge of reforming Florida's broken personal injury protection auto insurance system, which has been infiltrated by crooks and enterprising industries, driving up costs for all Floridians.
I believe this Legislature, with the support of Gov. Rick Scott and many others, passed meaningful PIP reforms that will positively impact Florida's drivers by targeting fraud, reducing costs and making our roads safer for citizens and visitors.
The purpose of this reform was to reduce skyrocketing auto insurance premiums for Florida drivers. But change does not happen overnight. We will not be able to fully analyze the savings these measures will generate for Florida's consumers until late 2013.
Our first opportunity to measure the effectiveness of this legislation will come in July with the creation of a PIP Fraud Strike Force. This strike force, along with the Division of Insurance Fraud, will look for ways to reduce fraud in the system as well as monitor for new scams attempting to circumvent antifraud provisions. The strike force will identify tools to assist in the investigation and prosecution of PIP fraud and seek funding and donations for such initiatives.
In September, the Office of Insurance Regulation, overseen by Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, will contract with an independent consultant to calculate the expected savings from the new law. I have instructed Florida's insurance consumer advocate, Robin Westcott, to play an active role in selecting the consultant and reviewing the results to ensure that all factors are properly evaluated and consumers are fairly represented in the process.
In October, automobile insurers must make a filing showing a rate reduction of at least 10 percent or provide a detailed explanation as to why they were unable to provide their policyholders with such a reduction.
The bulk of the PIP reforms passed this session go into effect in January 2013. These reforms will allow consumers to get the care they need after an accident while ensuring that only legitimate claims are paid. In short, these new provisions help return PIP to its original mission — to provide emergency care after an auto accident for those who may not have other health care options, regardless of who is at fault.
These are the reforms that I believe will get at the root of the abuses occurring in the current PIP system and will go a long way in reducing your automobile insurance rates.
I am eager to start seeing Floridians' auto insurance rates go down and will continue to be a watchdog for Florida's insurance consumers.
Jeff Atwater is Florida's chief financial officer and a member of the Florida Cabinet. He oversees the Department of Financial Services.