Florida Senate Passes PIP Car Insurance Reform in 39-1 Vote

florida state capitol building

[Read "Florida Lawmakers Send PIP Insurance Reform Bill to Governor" for an update on this story]

The Florida Senate voted 39-1 on Wednesday to approve a car insurance reform bill that had already been approved by the House, but with a catch: In the last minutes of voting, state senators rendered the bill virtually unrecognizable from what the House had originally sent over.

Florida senators had been considering their chamber’s own version of a bill to reform the state’s personal injury protection (PIP) insurance system, making dozens of amendments and carrying out intense debate. But this morning they voted to table the bill, which rendered it practically dead.

Then the Senate replaced its own version with HB 119, the House-approved stab at Florida car insurance reform that was voted on last week.

Without any debate, Sen. Joe Negron—the author of the original Senate bill—proposed a late-file amendment that completely changed HB 119 to reflect the Senate’s reform proposals.

The bill was then approved by all members of the chamber except one: Sen. Arthenia Joyner.

It now goes back to the House for debate and amendments there.

Proposed PIP Changes

The changes are being proposed in order to cut down costs for insurers, who, in theory, will pass those cost savings onto consumers.

Legislators and members of the industry have repeatedly said that fraudulent and inflated claims have perennially pushed up rates for consumers, making cheap car insurance for teenagers and other higher-risk demographics virtually impossible to find.

The changes would help combat that problem with measures to cut mandatory coverage, reduce fraud and limit attorney fees.

The Senate’s idea of PIP reform makes less drastic changes than the House’s original proposal.

The following are the major changes made by the Senate legislation being sent over to the House:

  • The 80 percent of medical benefits covered by PIP would be reduced to care that is initially treated within the first 14 days of an accident and is provided in a hospital or a facility that owns or is wholly owned by a hospital.
  • Reimbursement for services and care is limited to 24 visits or, if less than that, up to 12 weeks of care.
  • Massage and acupuncture would no longer be covered by PIP.
  • Attorney fees would be limited.
  • Insurers who have established a history of delaying or denying claims payments without proper reason could have their licenses suspended for five years.
  • Establishments getting reimbursed for care through PIP policies would have to sign a statement regarding what constitutes insurance fraud.
  • The government would set up a not-for-profit organization in the state to fight insurance fraud. It would be funded by private organizations.
  • Police would have to fill out long-form crash reports in an expanded set of situations.

The legislation also contains a provision that aims to hold coverage providers to their claim that significant reforms would allow them to reduce drivers’ rates. If passed, insurance companies in the state would have to cut rates by at least 25 percent by January 2013, or at least provide a compelling reason for why they would be unable to do so.

It’s unclear how the House will react to the proposals, considering that its original bill went much further.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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