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Five Ways the PIP "Reform" Bill Fails to Help Consumers

Gov. Rick Scott was so eager to pass a car  insurance reform bill last week that he sent personal thank-you notes to the lawmakers who supported it. The personal injury protection (PIP) insurance bill was a cornerstone of his legislative agenda.

"This is a bill that delivers on my promise to reduce the cost of living in this state by reducing fraud, stopping the growing cost related to accident fraud and ultimately saving Floridians money that otherwise would have found its way into the pockets of fraudsters, unethical providers and trial lawyers," Scott's office said in a news release when HB 119 passed. "I applaud the legislature for this decision that will help every Floridian policyholder."

But voters should know that Scott hardly ever worries about consumers. Remember,

his former company committed the biggest health-care fraud in American history. Likewise, his PIP reform bill is little more than a clever marketing ploy.

5. It doesn't guarantee lower insurance premiums. All Florida drivers are required to carry PIP insurance that covers them for $10,000 in medical costs and lost wages if they are in an accident. But they won't necessarily pay less for that coverage under this bill. The 10 percent PIP insurance rate reduction is optional. Insurance companies can refuse to lower the rate if they give a written, detailed excuse.

4. It doesn't eliminate accident clinics or unscrupulous referral services. The bill does not outlaw for-profit referral services such as 1-800-411-PAIN and 1-800-ASK-GARY that direct accident victims to specific chiropractic clinics and lawyers in their networks. As long as the clinics get a physician to say their patients have a medical emergency, they can use the entire $10,000 PIP benefit. However, if a doctor says the patient is not having an emergency, only $2,500 in benefits can be used.

If this puts some unscrupulous referral services and chiropractors out of business, that would be lovely. But it may also hurt smaller chiropractors who treat patients with non-emergency injuries.

3. It will almost certainly create legal battles over the meaning of a "medical emergency." For all the talk about cutting down on legal fights over PIP payments, this bill just creates a new fight. How does one prove what constitutes a medical emergency? The trial lawyers and insurance companies will be debating this endlessly.

2. People with legitimate injuries may run out of coverage. If an injury is not ruled an emergency, the victim is entitled to only $2,500 worth of coverage. That small amount could be eaten up by initial tests, so longer-term therapy -- for, say, an injured back -- becomes unaffordable.

1. It's a big wet kiss to the insurance industry. Insurance companies lobbied hard for this bill, and they love it, because their payouts to consumers could plummet from $10,000 to $2,500. And remember, they don't have to lower premiums.

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab

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