New PIP Law Passes Senate

By DARA KAM Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 11:34 p.m. Friday, March 9, 2012 Posted: 8:23 p.m. Friday, March 9, 2012

Post a Comment E-mail Print Share Larger Type

TALLAHASSEE — In a last-ditch effort, the Florida Legislature gave Gov. Rick Scott one of his top priorities of the 2012 legislative session Friday night and changed the state’s no-fault auto insurance law.

The House was the first to take up the compromise bill on personal injury protection, which drivers are required to buy in Florida, and passed it on a party-line 80-34 vote.

Then the Senate started debating about 8 p.m. and at 9:25 p.m. voted 22-17 to pass the deal hammered out Thursday and Friday by lawmakers and industry lobbyists.

As insurance lobbyists watched from the Senate’s public gallery, Sen. Dennis Jones, a chiropractor, immediately tore into it, saying he was the only senator who has treated PIP patients.

“This is a very, very punitive bill,” Jones, R-Seminole, said of the compromise, which caps PIP payments for chiropractic treatment at $2,500. “You might have lower premiums because no treatment, no payment.”

But Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said, “We’ve got runaway attorney’s fees. We’ve got staged accidents…We have to eliminate fraud. We cannot be light on this,” he said.” This bill, this bill is the best effort that I’ve seen since this debate began.”

Under the compromise hammered out Thursday and Friday, the House agreed to allow up to $10,000 for emergency service coverage as determined by a physician, osteopath, dentist, physician’s assistant or registered nurse practitioner.

Visits to chiropractors would be covered up to $2,500 for certain types of injuries, but would require a referral from one of the other health care providers for others. Acupuncturists and massage therapists would no longer be covered by PIP.

That was a concession for the House, which originally wanted initial care to take place only at a hospital or emergency room and later amended its plan to allow private physician visits with a coverage limit of $2,500.

The compromise bill also would require patients to seek care within two weeks of a crash, a concession from the House’s original seven- day requirement.

The compromise also does not include a cap on attorneys fees as the House originally wanted.

In what could be a sticking point for the Senate, the deal would require insurers to roll back rates 10 percent by October and 25 percent by Jan. 1., 2014, or else give a “detailed explanation” to insurance regulators for why the rates were not reduced. The Senate had sought an immediate 25 percent rate reduction.