Gov. Rick Scott signed off on a bill reforming Florida’s auto insurance system Friday, finalizing a contentious debate around the now-approved law that overhauls how the state compensates providers and policyholders for crash-related injuries.
Legislators passed the reform bill in early March by an 80-34 vote in the state House and a 22-17 vote in the state Senate. That compromise bill followed battles in both state chambers over how to improve the state’s personal injury protection (PIP) coverage system that reimburses policyholders for post-crash medical expenses regardless of who was at fault for the collision.
The law’s proponents say it will save taxpayers money because it will reduce the rate of insurance-related crime, and insurers will, in theory, pass savings from reform onto drivers who search for Florida car insurance with lower premiums.
Opponents say that the reform measure severely undercuts the value of PIP coverage by restricting the amount that can go to treating nonemergency medical conditions to a total of $2,500, barring massage therapists and acupuncturists from receiving PIP payments and covering only treatments that start within the first 14 days of a crash.
The governor signed the bill into law at an event in Jacksonville, Fla., saying “I am glad to do my part in keeping the cost of living low in Florida.”
The governor’s office cited statistics from state regulators showing that the number of crashes in the state declined as the amount of PIP payments increased 66 percent in 2006-10.
“These claims have caused auto insurance premiums to burden Florida families,” the governor’s office stated in a release coinciding with the signing ceremony.
New Conditions for PIP Medical Treatment
The new law institutes reforms that tighten restrictions on the kind of medical treatment a person receives under PIP coverage.
Previously, PIP covered up to 80 percent of medical expenses, up to 60 percent of lost income and up to a $5,000 death benefit, up to the policy limits. Reform supporters said this setup was too wide, leading to a rising number of phony claims and, ultimately, higher insurance premiums for everyone in the state.
Medical care providers previously covered by the state’s no-fault coverage included acupuncturists, massage therapists and other nonemergency medical professionals.
The law now eliminates services like massage therapy and acupuncture from benefits eligibility, requiring specific accreditations of facilities, hospitals and physician-owned clinics where policyholders can receive PIP-covered medical treatment. The law also requires policyholders to receive their initial treatment within the first 14 days after a crash if it is to be covered.