Senate prepares to replace no-fault auto insurance

Filed under FLORIDA

BY JIM TURNER
NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE – A proposal to scrap the state’s no-fault auto insurance system was backed by a Senate committee on Tuesday, but the measure will rev in idle pending an anticipated appeals court ruling.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted to support the measure (SB 7152), which gives up on last year’s effort to remove fraud from the state’s decade-old Personal Injury Protection (PIP) auto insurance system.

The proposal would abolish PIP and set bodily injury coverage as the new bargain basement system.

But the Senate measure will sit until a decision is reached on the state’s challenge to Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis’ ruling in March that sided a challenge by chiropractors and massage therapists to the 2012 law.

“I’ve got it in a posture so we can deal with it and we’re poised to take action in the event that we get further direction from the courts,” said committee Chairman Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland. “I think it’s important to wait and see if the court decision is resolved. When we get that information we’ll have a basis for making a decision.”

Warming to change
Lewis ruled the law that Gov. Rick Scott signed last May illegally prevents accident patients from using PIP claims to pay for treatment by acupuncturists and massage therapists. He also found fault with the law’s lower limit on how much it will pay for non-emergency medical care.

Simmons said he believes time remains during the regular session if the court rules against the state in the next week or two.

“We wouldn’t want to have a special session if we could deal with it now,’ Simmons said.

Insurance companies have indicated they are “warming” to the proposed auto insurance change. Meanwhile, Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, proponents of last year’s law, have made public overtures that they’d prefer giving the 2012 reforms a chance to take hold.

But Simmons said even if the court rules the law is constitutional he could see the Legislature eventually moving forward with his proposal.

Still some fraud
“I think we’re finding that rates haven’t gone down. I think we’re finding the fraud is still prevalent and the litigation is voluminous and indications are that it’s going to get more voluminous,” Simmons said. ‘I think (PIP) is on its last gasp unless there is a dramatic reduction in litigation, in fraud and its rates. And that’s not happening.”

According to OIR, of 135 rate filings sought since the 2012 law went into effect, 52 percent have been for a decrease in premiums. About 28 percent have shown an increase.

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