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House, Senate bills to repeal PIP clear committees despite questions, differences

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Florida lawmakers appear to be taking steps to repeal a state law requiring personal injury protection coverage, but differences remain between the House and Senate proposals.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted 8-1 to approve a bill (SB 1766) that would repeal the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, replacing the PIP mandate with a requirement that motorists carry bodily injury protection.

The Senate proposal, sponsored by Hillsborough County Republican Sen. Tom Lee, would create a medical payment, or MedPay, coverage mandate of $5,000. That system, according to a staff analysis, would provide “substantially similar coverage to current PIP medical benefits.”

That provision is not included in the House proposal (HB 1063) which cleared the House Commerce Committee on Thursday morning. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, also repeals the portion of the state law that requires motorists to obtain and maintain PIP coverage. Like Lee’s proposal, the House bill replaces the PIP mandate with a requirement to purchase bodily injury protection.

The bill bill increases the minimum bodily injury coverage limits to $25,000 of injuries to another person, and $50,000 of injuries for two or  more people.

The decision not to include MedPay in the House proposal had members in both chambers concerned. During discussions of the Senate bill, Sen. Rene Garcia asked Lee what commitment he has that the “MedPay component stays as part of the package.”

“I’m going to do my best to make sure hospitals and ER physicians aren’t adversely impacted,” said Lee, before saying it would likely be something that would have to be hammered out during negotiations.

But even then, Lee conceded there was no guarantee the MedPay component would end up in the final bill.

“At some point, we have to agree to disagree … and that’s why they make next year,” he said.

Garcia was the lone dissenting vote on the Senate proposal, citing the panel’s decision not to take up and adopt several amendments. Lee withdrew the amendments, citing concerns that amending the bill in the committee would slow down the process and decrease its chances of getting to the floor.

That could be a valid concern for those looking to reform the system. Lee’s bill received its first of three committee hearings on Thursday, with just three weeks until the end of the 2017 Legislative Session. The last day for regularly scheduled committee meetings is April 25.

The House bill cleared the Commerce Committee on a 22-5 vote, and is now headed to the floor. During the meeting, some members expressed concerns about the impact it could have on rates. However, several members said they were supporting the bill because they thought the current system needed to be changed.

“PIP as we know it is a dinosaur,” said Rep. Richard Stark, who said he was supporting the bill in committee but wasn’t prepared to commit to supporting it on the floor.  “The current system can’t prevail.”

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