Florida Lawmakers Introduce Set of Car Insurance Reform Bills

Florida lawmakers kicked off the new legislative session by introducing a flurry of bills aimed at reining in the dishonest claims and billing they say are running the state’s no-fault auto insurance system into the ground.

The four pieces of legislation introduced this week—two in the state House and two in the Senate—call for similar actions, including increasing the prominence given to law enforcement reports about injury accidents, allowing insurers to offer preferred-provider discounts and giving priority to hospitals over other medical providers in the treatment of crash victims.

Florida is one of a dozen states nationwide with no-fault systems that were implemented in order to cut down on the number of accident-related injury lawsuits and to make the claims process smoother for policyholders.

Florida Questionable Auto Insurance Claims CountsState law requires motorists to carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP), which covers policyholders up to that limit regardless who caused an accident. But insurers and many lawmakers say that scammers aim to get as much of that dollar figure as they can through misleading claims, inflated billing, unnecessary medical treatment and other illegal activities.

Industry experts say that has driven up costs for insurers, forcing them to hike premiums in order to maintain profitability, which in turn has made finding affordable vehicle coverage from even the cheapest car insurance companies a challenge for many Floridians.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City), would require that law enforcement officers investigating vehicle crashes submit a long-form report, rather than a shorter version, for every accident resulting in death, personal injury or complaint of pain or discomfort by any involved party. It would also allow police to testify at trial or provide a deposition or signed affidavit to be used during proceedings.

Among other provisions, Negron’s bill would also tighten licensing restrictions on medical clinics—which critics say are a hotbed of unscrupulous claims and billing—and establish a fee schedule for medical claims billing.

The legislation, which would take effect in July if adopted, also mandates that state regulators gather data from insurers on the no-fault system and any changes resulting from the legislation as of January 2015.

According to a report released last month by a working group formed by state officials to assess the condition of Florida’s vehicle insurance system, PIP rate increases for the state’s top five insurers have risen between 35 percent and 72 percent since 2009.

But a recent report issued by the Florida Consumer Action Network called into question the insurer data used by the working group, pointing out that the information was supplied voluntary by coverage providers and not verified by regulators.

Another House bill and two pieces of legislation now in the state Senate join Negron’s proposed law in calling for law enforcement officials to have a greater say in the validity of injury claims following an accident and giving hospitals priority over other medical facilities for billing purposes.

The other House bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), would attempt to weed out unscrupulous claimants by requiring that all accident victims seek medical care at a hospital, rather than any other facility, within 72 hours of a crash.

The legislation would also allow insurers to establish discounts for policyholders who agree to use medical service providers who are listed on insurers’ lists of preferred providers, and insurers would have the authority to conduct on-site inspections of treatment locations requesting compensation from a PIP insurer.

 

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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