Merick Lewin, the Republican state House candidate from Davie whose family runs the 1-800-411-PAIN Referral Service, has raised $96,000 for his campaign-- far outpacing all of his competitors in District 97.
Unsurprisingly,roughly 30 percent of Lewin's donations come from healthcare professionals and attorneys. 411-PAIN is a Broward-based company that refers car accident victims to chiropractors and lawyers. Harley Lewin, Merick's uncle, is co-owner of the company.Two years ago, Merick served as a state lobbyist for a 411-PAIN clinic.
Despite these ties to the company, Lewin has said he does not want to be judged by his "familial relationships" and will not vote on legislation that would "give a direct financial incentive" to his family's business.
But he'll have to walk through Tallahassee with his hands over his ears to avoid talk about Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. All drivers in Florida are required to carry at least $10,000 worth of PIP, which helps pay their
medical bills and lost wages if they're in an accident.
Medical clinics in the 411-PAIN network rely on PIP insurance to cover the cost of their patients' care. A civil lawsuit filed in 2010 alleges that 411-PAIN misleads customers into believing they will receive that PIP money, when it's actually paid to lawyers and chiropractors in the network. 411-PAIN has denied all the allegations in the suit.
Thanks to rising concerns about staged accidents and the profit motives of referral services such as 411-PAIN, PIP reform is expected to be a major legislative issue in Tallahassee this year.
As for Merick Lewin's election chances, campaign finance documents show his war chest is more than double that of Robin Behrman, the leading Democratic candidate in his district.