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Politics

'PIP' Repeal Progresses in the Senate; Still No Action in the House

April 2, 2019 - 7:00am

A move to eliminate Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system advanced Monday in the Senate, though a similar House proposal has not been heard as the annual legislative session reaches its halfway point this week.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted 5-3 to approve the Senate bill (SB 1052), which sponsor Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, expects to be worked into any broader insurance package that emerges in the second half of the session.

“I’m just trying to put my bill in a position where if something were to come together that this bill would be in a posture to be part of negotiated resolutions to any insurance reforms we do this session,” Lee said after the meeting.

A House proposal (HB 733) aimed at repealing the decades-old no fault system has not been heard in committees. Under the non-fault system, drivers are required to carry personal-injury protection, or PIP, coverage to help pay medical bills after accidents.

For several years lawmakers in both chambers have floated the idea of ending the no-fault system. Motorists are required to carry $10,000 in PIP coverage, an amount unchanged since 1979.

“It’s just fundamentally irresponsible for people to be driving around in 2019 with what essentially amounts to $1,500 in no-fault insurance,” Lee said.

The House and Senate proposals would move away from the PIP requirement and, starting Jan. 1, mandate that motorists carry bodily-injury coverage. The bills would require a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury coverage for the injury or death of one person and $50,000 for injuries or deaths of two or more people. The proposals also would retain an existing $10,000 financial responsibility requirement for property damage.

Under Lee’s proposal, insurers would be required to offer medical payments, or “MedPay” coverage, to motorists. But unlike past proposals, motorists would not be required to have the coverage.

A 2016 report by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation projected that drivers would see a 5.6 percent savings by shifting to a bodily-injury coverage requirement. A study two years later by the actuarial consulting firm Milliman showed an average increase in premiums by $67, or a 5.3 percent increase.

Lee said he favors the Office of Insurance Regulation estimate.

No-fault coverage was a target in 2012 of former Gov. Rick Scott and former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater as critics said the system had become riddled with fraud. Lawmakers approved legislation to try to fix the problems but have repeatedly returned to the possibility of repealing no-fault.

The proposed elimination this year is one of several high-profile insurance issues in the Legislature. Perhaps the biggest fight centers on the controversial practice known as assignment of benefits, but insurers and business groups also are hoping lawmakers will take up issues such as restricting “bad faith” lawsuits.

Bad faith cases involve allegations that insurers have not properly looked out for the interests of their customers.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said Monday he couldn’t support Lee’s no-fault bill without the inclusion of changes to bad-faith laws.

“This is one of those issues where PIP and this conversion needs to happen, and everybody kind of agrees that it needs to happen,” Brandes said. “I’d think you’d find almost full support here if we could find some pathway forward on third-party bad-faith.”

The addition of bad-faith legislation to past PIP-repeal efforts has been fought by the House, where bill sponsor Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, has said the change would make the proposal “more complicated than it needs to be.”

Comments

None of the legislator dunces or insurance company doboys are competent to write a better system, so we'd be better off leaving it as is: 11th Circuit Slams Floriduh PIP Law, Again: Opinion Invites Rational Challenge to § 627.736(1)(a)4 Last week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals instructed the District Court to dismiss a suit filed by a chiropractor/assignee against a PIP insurer for lack of standing. The suit (Gerber v. GEICO 11th Circuit No. 17-15606 04/19/19) sought a declaration that the wording contained in a GEICO Fee Schedule Endorsement obligated GEICO to pay all, rather than 80%, of certain charges for services. Because Gerber's Amended Complaint disclaimed any future harm from GEICO underpaying him in the future, Judge Branch would have dismissed the suit flat out for lack of standing. Judges Wilson and Vinson (sitting by designation), however, founded their lack of standing dismissal on an exhaustion of benefits theory because Gerber was already paid more than required under the $2,500 PIP limit for non-emergency medical conditions contained in Fla. Stat. 627.736(1)(a)4. The Panel Opinion summarized the $2,500 PIP limit on page 2 of the opinion: Pursuant to Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, the policy provided him with $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. See Fla. Stat. § 627.736(1) (mandating that automobile insurers provide PIP benefits “to a limit of $10,000”). To be entitled to the full $10,000, however, the statute required that Carruthers—like all PIP beneficiaries—be diagnosed by an authorized health care provider with an “emergency medical condition” (EMC); without such a diagnosis, he was limited to $2,500 in benefits.See id. at § 627.736(1)(a)(3)-(4); Robbins v. Garrison Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 809 F.3d 583, 587-88 (11th Cir. 2015) (holding in consolidated appeal that “[b]ecause neither Robbins’ nor Enivert’s claim was supported by [an EMC determination], neither Garrison nor Progressive violated Fla. Stat. § 627.736 by limiting benefits to $2,500”); accord, e.g., Progressive Am. Ins. Co. v. Eduardo J. Garrido D.C., P.A., 211 So.3d 1086, 1093 (Fla. 3d DCA 2017); Medical Ctr. of Palm Beaches v. USAA Cas. Ins. Co., 202 So.3d 88, 92-93 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016); McCarty v. Myers, 125 So.3d 333, 335 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013). Then the Panel works through the contract and exhaustion of benefits analysis to come to its lack of standing conclusion. Interestingly, along the way, the Panel says that: We recognize that this appeal raises an important issue for GEICO’s Florida PIP policyholders and for medical providers treating them. And we recognize, too, that the lawsuit has been pending for several years and has consumed a lot of both judicial and attorney resources. If we could, we would reach the merits and give finality to the questions presented. But we cannot. Like Chief Judge Carnes and Judge Martin in Robbins v. Garrison Prop., cited by the Panel, the Opinion ridicules the Florida legislature for making such a mess of a statutory scheme and wonders why the Florida Courts have not sorted out the mess themselves. Recall that the Robbins panel spelled out how the Florida legislature amended a thirty year old statutory scheme so inartfully as to render it senseless; “That is why we are here.” Don't see that much. Being obligated to try and figure out the “anything but clear” legislation the way the state that passed it says it likes to make sense out of words which make none, the Robbins panel shook their heads and upheld the dismissal of the challenges to section 627.736(1)(a)4. They pointed out how the Florida legislature clearly did not know how to use words. And, made fun of the legislative staff “analyses” suggesting that the new limits would reduce fraud and bring down premiums. They decided in the end that stupid is as stupid does, and the incomprehensible amendments do articulate an intention to create a dual limit PIP structure. So, being obligated (by the particular state's way of figuring these things out) to honor foolish, ignorant and even corrupt legislative intent, the Robbins Panel had no choice but to go along with the second PIP limit enactment and affirm the dismissals. Like the Gerber Panel, it would like to have helped but could not. So we are left with a plainly defective PIP scheme that everybody knows is no good, but nobody is doing anything about. And, why did GEICO pay Gerber three times the $2,500 limit? Is the profit maximizing strategy to blow past it and pay as if the bogus limit didn't exist when savvy providers call bullshit, but still use it to cap what you pay suckers? Is that a good faith way to run an insurance company? The 11th Circuit is curious, but is not going to do it for us.

Think about this: if you do away with PIP and you're in an accident, good luck with any settlement as the hospital's will eat up everything since they dont reduce their Bill's and your health insurance will make you lay back whatever it pays the hospital - out of your settlement. The hospitals and insurance companies would be the winners - again. At least PIP provides 10k towards your medical Bill's and leaves you with something. Switching to 25k BI and no PIp means less recovery in the pocket of the innocent victim. Ever see a hospital bill? $7k for a CT scan? Our legislature is full of idiots with senators and reps on the take as they have always been. This isn't about protecting the innocent. The study done by actuaries show that car insurance rates will go up, not down if PIP goes away. What savings? Show the proof and shut your mouths. Vote out these corrupt politicians in Florida and let's get our balls back

The biggest lobbyist are the personal injury attorneys and the Chiropractic Association. Which are the ones who suck the life out of PIP in 12 weeks. they are the ones the only ones who benefit from PiP. Not even the poor insureds.

The no fault system bilks us who pay the rates, some of the highest in the country. On average, a typical consumer of insurance would save $300 every six months or $600 a year. You already have to pay for health insurance due to mandates, you are double paying for similar health insurance coverage. What they don't tell you is that the lawyers collect by law 33% of the bodily injury settlement and use the PIP money at $10,000 to pay the doctors for treatment that in most cases is overboard and would be denied by Medicare/Private insurer's. Even if they are at fault and don't have a BI claim, the PIP doctors will throw kick backs to folks to attain the $10,000 PIP required money. If the clinics sue due to not getting paid, they usually win the judgements and then the litigating lawyer charges separate fees that are payable by law not included in the settlement i.e. you file suit over a $50 payment error and the lawyer charges the insurer $2500 for his fee for filing the request in court. Non PIP states do not have these issues, less scams and less injury claims overall, with allowing consumers to keep money in their pockets.

So, those of us on fixed incomes can look forward to an increase of our premiums to benefit the Insurance companies? Unless the cost goes down I cannot and will not support changes. Everybody likes to complain about the Lawyers. News Flash! The culprits are the Insurance companies. They deny. They lowball. They are why everything requires a Lawyer. Lawmakers keep screwing over Floridians to benefit big corporations. Vote the bums out!

Historically, insurance companies have ALWAYS benefited from the largess of the Florida state legislature ... ESPECIALLY when that legislature has been single-party Republican. Same-old-same-old.

You obviously have no knowledge of this bill or what it does... or how much fraud is committed every year because of PIP. Tom Lee's version of this bill is correct, and the non-lawyers and lobbyists need to get out of the way. FL drivers will save money if this is ever passed, but the lobbyists are making too much money to let that happen.

Florida 3rd highest auto rates in the US Florida 5th highest for Uninsured/Under-insured Motorist in the US

Insurance companies in Florida are predatory ... and the politicos have enabled that.

Don't "hold your breath" on THIS one CITIZEN TAXPAYERS, "Special Interests" and weak, smarmy politicians are "stacked against us"...

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