OAI: Fiery Car Insurance Reform Debate Ends with Governor’s Approval

New Florida law will tighten restrictions on policyholders', providers' payouts for personal injury protection.

Jacksonville, FL, May 07, 2012 --(PR.com)-- For supporters of auto insurance reform in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott’s recent approval of legislation overhauling the system provides a satisfying coda to what has been a long-running, controversial issue, according to Online Auto Insurance.

Scott signed off on the legislation Friday in Jacksonville, Fla., after lawmakers passed the reform measure in March. The newly approved law institutes tighter constraints on how policyholders and service providers are compensated under the state’s personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, a type of no-fault coverage reimbursing policyholders for medical expenses for crash-related injuries.

Proponents said reform is needed to combat PIP-related crime and rising coverage costs that makes it nearly impossible for consumers in the state to find low auto insurance premiums.

“[T]his legislation will benefit the pocketbooks of every Florida family who drives an automobile,” Scott said in a statement.

Scott and other reform supporters hope that the law will cut down on crime and lead to cost savings for Florida’s citizens. New provisions will give insurers more time to investigate suspicious claims and require police to submit longer-form reports after crashes more often.

But opponents—and even some supporters—said that any savings will really come from significantly cutting the minimum protection that PIP policies in the state provide.

The new law preserves the $10,000 limit on PIP medical expenses, but adds an “emergency medical condition” clause that requires that reimbursements be related to an injury that could lead to death or serious impairment or dysfunction if left untreated. Nonemergency medical conditions are covered up to only $2,500.

Also, policyholders seeking compensation will have to receive initial treatment within 14 days following a crash.

Despite the state’s anticipated savings, the legislative revamp was not without bumps in the road. Scott had made PIP reform a goal of his governorship when he took office in 2010, but other politicians in the state showed less enthusiasm during the legislative process.

Members of the Senate Budget Committee debated the issue in February, and some senators said reform efforts would narrow access to medical services with the “emergency medical condition” provision, which nixes massage therapy and acupuncture as eligible services for PIP compensation.

“I wanted to clean up PIP too but what we’re doing here is absolutely wrong,” Sen. Mike Bennett (R- Bradenton) said during the committee hearing, during which he proposed several amendments that would have preserved coverage massage treatment in limited scope but were eventually rejected.

At the same time, representatives in the state House had authored their version of a reform bill, which at one point swapped PIP entirely for medical care coverage covering hospital costs for treating emergency medical conditions diagnosed within three days of a policyholder’s crash.

A back-and-forth ensued between state chambers as legislators raced to iron out a compromise bill before the legislative session ended. It was ultimately passed by an 80-34 vote in the state House and a narrower 22-17 vote in the state Senate on March 9, the last day of the legislative session.

Source: http://floridasenate.gov/Session/Bill/2012/0119

Legislators presented their finalized bill to Scott for his approval on April 20.

For more on this and related issues, head to http://www.onlineautoinsurance.com/low-cost/ for access to an easy-to-use quote-comparison generator and informative resource pages.
Online Auto LLC
Charles Nguyen