Senate plan to revamp Florida's no-fault automobile insurance heads to floor

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Despite more than an hour of sometimes testy debate and flurry of proposed changes, a Senate plan to revamp Florida’s no-fault automobile insurance law left the Senate Budget Committee the way in came in, a more consumer friendly version than its counterpart across the hall, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.

Facing a series of proposed amendments to limit doctors visits, require patients to seek treatment within two weeks and a handful of other measures dealing with massage therapists, acupuncturists and more, the committee rejected them all and instead voted 15-5 to send the sponsor’s original bill to the floor.

The vote Wednesday left the chambers far apart on their approaches to reducing costs in a fraud-riddled industry that insurance officials estimate is costing policyholders $1 billion a years in additional premiums.

The plan advanced by the Budget Committee Wednesday would target fraud by requiring more detailed crash reports and more oversight over clinics. Unlike the House, the bill does not address attorney fees but attempts to clarify legal definitions put in place in 2007 that have led to significant litigation.

The bill gives hospitals, which are typically the first to deliver care after an accident, priority standing in PIP claims and takes massage therapists out of the list of providers eligible for coverage, but does not require that treatment occur there.

The House version would require PIP recipients to receive most of initial care at an emergency room within 72 hours of the accident. Payments to non emergency room physicians would be limited to $1,500. The House version also caps attorney fees for individual and class action cases, and eliminates an existing practice that allows plaintiff’s attorneys to use multipliers to calculate their fees.

Gov. Rick Scott has made changes to the PIP system a priority – though so far he hasn’t said whether he will take extraordinary means to get it passed, such as keeping lawmakers into session until they pass something. But he reiterated Wednesday that it is among his priorities for things he wants lawmakers to tackle before leaving town.

“It impacts everybody in our state,” Scott said. “It’s a billion plus dollars worth of fraud….. This fraud impacts the poorest families the most. It’s a bigger portion of their income that they have to spend on this.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.