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Legislature sets PIP reform as a priority

By Regan McCarthy

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-994206.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – Committees in the Senate and the House are tackling Personal Injury Protection, or PIP auto insurance fraud. Regan McCarthy reports the scam is said to cost drivers almost a billion dollars a year.

Florida governor Rick Scott presented his plan for PIP fraud Tuesday. It includes what the governor calls "four pillars" to fight fraud like litigation and provider reform. The cost has more than doubled in some areas and Scott says it's affecting everybody.

"It's happening because our current laws are being taken advantage of. It's hurting all Florida consumers. And if we do nothing the PIP portion of insurance is going to go up 29-percent a year."

Now the legislators are getting their hands on the issue. The House Insurance and banking committee sifted through Republican Representative Jim Boyd's draft bill aimed at quashing that fraud and finding other ways to reduce the skyrocketing cost of the insurance. Some lawmakers like Republican Representative Bill Hager suggested just throwing out the mandate.

"There's a number of states that operate, do fine without PIP and haven't we reached the point where we say this sucker is such a rotting carcass we need to throw it out?"

Boyd says there's still a chance to save what he says is a good system. One of Boyd's suggestions requires police officers to write down the names all passengers in a car crash so people who weren't really there can't "jump in" later hoping to collect benefits. Another idea puts a limit on funding for massage therapy.

Meanwhile members of a Senate Committee are brainstorming solutions like allowing people with their own health coverage to opt out of PIP. PIP reform is expected to dominate the coming legislative session.