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Consumer advocate releases list of those asked to serve on auto insurance panel

By Christine Jordan Sexton, The Florida Tribune

August 29, 2011

Florida’s insurance consumer advocate has come up with a list of potential people she will ask to serve on a panel that will examine Florida’s personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage.

Robin Westcott told the Florida Tribune on Monday that she expects to finalize the list, which includes the names of 18 representatives from the automobile insurance, health insurance, hospital and medical associations, as well as the association that represents trial attorneys, by the end of the week. She hopes to have the first meeting Sept. 15.

PIP is a no fault insurance system that provides $10,000 worth of medical coverage for automobile related injuries, regardless of who is at fault. There are growing concerns about fraud in the system, though. The Office of Insurance Regulation released the Report on Review of the 2011 Personal Injury Protection Data Call, which showed that costs in the PIP system are increasing and that PIP payouts have gone from about $1.5 billion in 2008 to approximately $2.5 billion in 2010.

Past efforts to reform no-fault insurance has wound up pitting a coalition of health care providers, doctors and lawyers against insurers. But Westcott made the decision this summer to put together a working group to come up with potential changes.

Included on the working group list are representatives from State Farm, Allstate, Travelers of Florida and United Automobile Insurance Company. Some of the largest companies that write private passenger PIP, however, did not make the list including GEICO and Progressive which are the second and third largest writers of PIP according to state regulators. State Farm is the largest writer of PIP In the state.

Westcott said that the list of would-be appointees is comprised of people who either showed an interest in being appointed by reaching out to her office or who were involved in the legislative PIP debate last year. The list also includes representatives from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the Department of Financial Services, the governor’s office and House and Senate leadership. Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, also has made the list.

Westcott said not everyone on the list would serve on the panel and those that don’t will be invited to make presentations and be part of the discussions.

The Legislature in 2011 considered changes to the PIP program but ultimately did not pass anything substantial. Gov. Rick Scott has said he wants Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty to come up with potential changes after meeting with lawmakers.