Key Florida lawmakers are running out of patience with the state’s fraud-plagued no-fault motor vehicle insurance system that has cost policyholders hundred millions of dollars.
Senate President Don Gaetz , R-Niceville, told The Associated Press he isn’t persuaded that reforms to the personal injury protection coverage passed last year have yielded lower premiums for ratepayers. The system is known by its acronym PIP.
“Frankly I’m disappointed in the PIP insurance companies,” Gaetz said. “They promised savings. I want to know where the rate savings are.”
Industry analysts say it’s too early to tell what effect the new provisions, signed into law last May by Gov. Rick Scott, will have on cost savings.
“There is a heavy burden on them right now,” said Gaetz, who doesn’t believe a final decision on PIP will come in the upcoming session. “I don’t think the insurance companies have come through like they said they would come through.”
However, it is unlikely Scott or lawmakers will want to face disgruntled voters in 2014 without doing something on an issue that has eluded resolution for years.
Florida motorists have been required to buy no-fault PIP coverage since 1972 to make sure anyone injured in a crash gets money to treat their injuries without delay. A driver’s insurance company is required to pay up to $10,000 for medical bills and lost wages no matter who is at fault.
The new measure was largely designed to crack down on the rampant fraud that has haunted PIP in recent years, most notably in the Tampa and Miami areas. Those areas have been hotbeds for staged accidents and fraudulent claims, not to mention some eager health care providers and lawyers anxious to cash in as well.
The new law put a 14-day limit on seeking treatment following a crash and capped benefits at $2,500 unless a medical doctor, osteopathic physician, dentist or a supervised physician’s assistant or advanced registered nurse practitioner determines the injured person has an “emergency medical condition.” Chiropractors, however, can no longer make that determination.
Several lawsuits have resulted against the new law on behalf of massage therapists, acupuncturists and chiropractors.
Albeit perhaps a bit more tepid, House Speaker Will Weatherford said Tuesday he shares the Senate president’s concerns.
“I supported changes to Florida’s personal injury protection laws and believe they were necessary to protect consumers,” Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said. “I also share Senate President Gaetz’s concerns and believe we must ensure the law is implemented correctly.”
Michael Carlson, executive director of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, was among the supporters of PIP reform last year and believes it’s too early to make a decision on cost savings.
“The bulk of the key provisions of the PIP bill did not go into effect until Jan. 1,’ Carlson said. “We’ve got to see what the marketplace does. We hope it’ll turn in the right direction.”
Scott will be watching closely. He also has been critical of PIP and is on record that he wants it fixed or ditched.
Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty told Scott and the Cabinet in August 2011 that “fraudsters and hucksters” have escalated the problem with PIP fraud to a point where it has doubled policy costs for drivers in the previous five years and threatened the viability of some companies doing business in the state.
Gaetz, like others, is becoming increasingly impatient and said he wouldn’t need much convincing to support a mandatory bodily injury system that is used in most states.