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Senate panel ponders junking no-fault auto insurance

One year after the Legislature passed a law overhauling Florida’s no-fault auto insurance, known as personal injury protection or PIP, a Senate panel is considering eliminating the coverage in favor of an alternative system known as bodily injury.

A temporary injunction of the law by a Leon County judge led Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, to draft a bill getting rid of the PIP system. Instead of a no-fault system, which pays for medical coverage no matter who is at fault in an accident, the state would move to mandatory bodily injury coverage, in which the insurer of the party at fault would pay for medical care.

“It’s time for us, I believe, to revisit this issue,” Simmons said.

The current PIP system provides up to $10,000 of coverage. The 2012 law attempts to clamp down on PIP fraud, bars massage therapists and acupuncturists from PIP reimbursements, caps nonemergency care at $2,500 and requires patients to seek care within 14 days.

Already the varied interests are positioning themselves on the potential for a new system. Auto insurance lobbyists told the panel they tentatively support a move to bodily injury, depending on the details of the legislation.

Michael Carlson, executive director of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, which represents State Farm, Allstate and Progressive, which write nearly half of all auto insurance policies in the state, asked lawmakers to allow insurers to adjust the coverage levels. The draft bill mandates bodily injury coverage of $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for two or more crash victims.

“We are warming up to this idea,” Carlson said. “Please allow as much pricing flexibility as you can to the insurers and to the consumers.”

But Florida Hospital Association general counsel Bill Bell expressed concerns that the new system would not provide medical coverage for all drivers and even those covered would experience delays in payments.

“We think there is still a need, regardless of what you do with bodily injury, we think there is still a need for (PIP),” said Bell.

 

Reporter Gray Rohrer can be reached at [email protected]

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