The Florida Supreme Court has declined to review the state’s no-fault automobile insurance personal injury protection (PIP) reforms that were designed to lower the cost of the coverage by targeting fraud and restricting emergency medical services.
Parts of the 2012 reforms had been overturned by a lower court and then reinstated by the First District Court of Appeal. The high court move means implementation of the reforms may proceed.
The 2012 reforms impose a cap of $10,000 for medical emergencies and a limit on non-emergency medical care to $2,500 for car accident victims. They also exclude payments to chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists — some of whom succeeded last spring in getting an injunction against implementation of the reforms from Circuit Court Judge Terry.
The First District Court of Appeal lifted that injunction in October. The First DCA ruled that the excluded medical providers had no standing to bring suit since they could not present an actual instance where the new law infringed on their rights. Even if the providers had standing, the court ruled, it would have to stem from actual accident victims affected by the law.
The state’s highest court has now let that First DCA decision (Myers v. McCarthy) stand. However, the fight over the PIP reforms may not be over.
Adam Levine, of the Florida Legal Advocacy Group that represented the medical providers, predicted that since the court did not address the merits of the case and merely ruled on the narrow legal grounds, the medical providers had no standing, the ruling opened the door to more legal challenges.
Donovan Brown, council for state government relations with the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said that recent evidence revealed that implementation of the 2012 PIP reforms have “led to reduced fraud and suppression of the PIP portion of auto rates.”
A study by the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) released in January found that the reforms are saving some policyholders some money. The OIR found that insurers had reduced their personal injury protection (PIP) rates by a statewide average 13.2 percent. Since PIP rates only account for about 25 percent of a premium, the 13.2 percent rate decrease translates into an overall reduction in premiums of about three to four percent.
Donovan Brown, state government relation counsel for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), called the Supreme Court decision a “step forward” for consumers but said insurers believe there is more debate to come.
“PCI and its members will continue to support full implementation of the PIP reforms for the benefit of consumers,” Brown said. “However, we believe those challenging the PIP laws will continue their attempts to wipe away consumer benefits for personal gain by pursuing efforts to strike down the PIP law in every available forum.”
Last November, following the lifting of the injunction by the First DCA, lawmakers expressed interest in revisiting the PIP laws.
Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chair David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) said in light of the court ruling it was incumbent on lawmakers to revisit the law. “We’re going to look at this again because we’ve got no answers from the First DCA,” said Simmons at a committee meeting. “They, by some accounts, gave us a roadmap [saying] that we better do something.”