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Lawmakers approve PIP reform

Governor Rick Scott got the legislation he wanted to reform Florida’s mandatory motor vehicle law. James Call reports supporters of the measure say it cracks down on fraud in personal injury protection cases and will lead to lower premiums for consumers.

Personal Injury Protection or PIP provides up to $10,000 to cover medical bills after an accident. It was designed to make money quickly available for anyone injured in an auto mishap. The new regulations require accident victims to get treatment within 14 days. The full $10,000 is available for emergency medical conditions only. The Senate debated the proposal for nearly 90 minutes. Opponents like Miami-Dade’s Miguel de la Portilla said it favors insurance companies.

"Baaad deal!.  A bad deal for the consumer,  a bad deal for the rate payers,  a bad deal for the injured, a bad deal for those who provide medical services to the injured to hospitals,  but a sweetheart of a deal... a sweetheart  for the insurance companies."

Supporters argued the need for reform. They noted PIP costs have increased by $1.4 billion in four years. And that Florida is ranked number one nationally in staged accidents. Senator Joe Negron negotiated the details of the proposals with the Governor and House. In his closing debate comments he said its details were being misrepresented and that it was not anti-consumer.

"I don’t think being a conservative means when the insurance industry says jump you say how high.  And Senator Hays and I have gotten into issues and he has called me a few things and being a lapdog for the insurance industry is not one of them. Maybe called me a lapdog for other interests but not for insurance companies.  So that is just not a basis in fact and frankly I take great pride in the fact  that even if it is to my political detriment that I am going to stand up for consumers and nobody is going to tell me quote unquote liberal to defend the rights of people who pay premiums."

The measure guarantees a 10 percent reduction in PIP premiums the first year. If insurers do not meet the target they must explain in full detail why not. An independent panel will review the numbers. State CFO Jeff Atwater said after 40 years of nibbling around the edges the Legislature implemented significant reforms that that will deliver savings to consumers.

"You haven’t seen that before in law where we have said we are going to have an independent party, not the insurance industry to set the rate for us, it is going to be an independent party putting that rate on the table and then if you can’t get there you tell us why and if you don’t respond in time we are going to shut your license off that’s pretty powerful."

The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who had made PIP reform a top priority for the legislative session. The Governor sent hand written thank you notes to the 23 senators and 80 House members who supported the proposal.