The 2012 Legislature set off on a course to try to fix the perceived Florida no-fault system fraud problem. Floridians are entitled to expect that the Legislature would produce a well-thought-out solution to the problems while simultaneously working to protect innocent Floridians from abusive insurers.
Sen. Joe Negron was appointed to draft a plan fix the problems in the no-fault system and he drafted a bill that made sensible and fair changes. Inordinate pressure from Gov. Rick Scott resulted in a last minute replacement of Sen. Negron’s bill with House Bill 119, which was drafted behind closed doors by profiteering insurance industry representatives and their regulatory friends. Legislators were bullied by its leadership with threats of adverse redistricting into voting for HB 119.
The bill has a glaring licensing glitch that mandates that, unless exempted, only healthcare clinics may receive PIP benefits effective July 1. Those exemptions, which apply to healthcare providers that are fully owned by physicians or hospitals, don’t go into effect until Jan.1, 2013. Therefore, for a six-month period, insurers will not have to pay doctor-owned healthcare providers or hospitals.
This bill will invite constitutional challenges. Injured persons are forced to waive their constitutional right to pain and suffering damages for auto accident related injuries in exchange for access to swift and automatic payment of PIP benefits. Without meaningful access to PIP benefits, Floridians cannot be constitutionally denied pain and suffering damages for sustained injuries. Floridians suffering from debilitating neck or back pain will soon discover that despite paying for an insurance policy intended to provide coverage for $10,000 of needed medical care that they are now likely only covered for minimal care. While taxpayers and business owners foot the bill for expenses previously covered by PIP, auto insurers will able to limit payments to $2,500, a 75-percent reduction in liability. The result is huge profits for auto insurers.