PIP Reform Efforts Racing to Session's Finish Line on Separate Tracks
By: Jim Turner
Sunshine State News
state’s supposedly low-cost auto
insurance option will come down to the
final day of the legislative session.
With Gov. Rick Scott increasing pressure
Thursday on legislators to pass a bill
that he says will reduce fraud in the
personal injury protection system, House
Speaker Dean Cannon told members that he
doesn’t expect the Senate’s bill will be
discussed until Friday.
Scott, joined by Chief Financial Officer
Jeff Atwater and Insurance Commissioner
Kevin McCarty, held a news conference in
Scott’s Capitol office shortly before
the House began its floor session late
And the message continues to favor the
proposal offered by the House.
“We have to make sure we have a system
where you can't say you were in an
accident when you weren’t there,” Scott
The House bill, HB 119, requires those
injured in auto accidents to get
treatment in an emergency room within 72
hours or with the medical provider of
their choice if the cost is under
Scott has said the failure to approve
the reform package would be a $1 billion
tax on motorists, noting that fraud in
the system has helped drive premium
costs up that amount.
“This is individuals taking advantage of
a state-mandated system,” Scott said.
"(Voters) expect us to fix this.”
The Office of the Insurance Consumer
Advocate, which is backing the reform
effort, on Thursday estimated that PIP
losses have caused rates to grow 81
percent since 2008, representing a $1.4
“For every dollar of PIP premium in
2011, insurers incurred costs of $1.18,”
the office stated in a release.
McCarty estimated that failing to revamp
the insurance would mean premium
increases of 30 percent a year.
The House received the Senate version of
the reform effort and debated the bill,
SB 1860, late Thursday.
Scott has declined to say he would call
legislators back after the session end
Friday to complete the reform effort. A
number of legislators, including Senate
President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt
Island, anticipate there will be a need
for a special session on the issue.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is more
"I think we're pretty close on this," he
said late Thursday.
However, Haridopolos said Thursday night
that limitation on trial lawyer fees
could be stumbling blocks to complete
negotiations on Friday.
"There are a lot of moving parts in
this," he said.
If the system can’t be fixed, the
alternative would be to replace the
system with the next low-cost option,
bodily injury coverage, Scott said.
Bodily injury coverage costs would be
expected to increase with more demand on
The Senate bill tightens procedures for
licensing medical clinics and
authorizing who can provide treatment,
requires long-form incident reports as a
way to root out staged accidents,
updates the bill-payment system and
gives hospitals priority standing in
personal injury protection claims.
Senators have added an amendment that
requires those involved in a crash to
seek medical help within two weeks.
The House bill also caps attorneys' fees
in both individual and class-action
The Senate allows chiropractors to
perform some treatment, and both
chambers prohibit massage therapy and
acupuncture as covered treatment.
The no-fault insurance, which provides
$10,000 of coverage to motorists, is
often the only coverage many motorists
Bill Newton, executive director of the
Florida Consumer Action Network,
argues Scott and other backers of the
House bill are “scrambling to scare
consumers” to help insurance companies.
“Their attempts to link attorney fee
multipliers to a huge increase in
insurance premiums flies in the face of
the state’s recent data that show
attorneys' fees are a mere 2.4 percent
of total PIP costs,” Newton stated in a
“Governor Scott and CFO Atwater also
take issue with the 25 percent auto
insurance rate reduction mandated by the
Senate’s PIP bill. The governor claims
this rate reduction would lead to higher
auto insurance premiums. How in the
world could a required 25 percent rate
decrease actually turn into a premium
increase? We may live in a state that
boasts of magical kingdoms, but this is
the stuff of fantasy.”
The network has been joined by the
Florida Medical Association, Florida
Justice Association, Florida
Chiropractic Association, Florida
Osteopathic Medical Association and the
Florida Public Interest Research Group
in support of the Senate bill.
McCarty said there is no actuary basis
that the Senate changes would reduce