New Florida PIP Law (Effective 1/1/13) Hammers Consumers

dollars.jpgFor those who think that all politicians are alike, that it doesn’t matter who is elected, think again. One need only look at what happened in the Florida legislature on Friday, March 9, 2012, to debunk the notion.

Tea-party darling Florida Governor Rick Scott and his right-wing Republican cohorts rammed through an anti-consumer, pro-insurance industry motor vehicle insurance law to rival any in the nation. It is so anti-consumer that even 8 Republican senators voted against it. Unfortunately, the bill passed in the Florida Senate by one vote.

The new law, effective January 1, 2013, deals with PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance. (Here’s a link to the law, House Bill 119.)

PIP is a form of insurance that covers medical and lost wages arising out of motor vehicle accidents. The current PIP law covers a total of $10,000 in medical expenses and lost wages subject to a deductible, if any, chosen by the policy holder. Whether and how much is paid in medical expenses is based on the reasonableness and necessity of the medical care.

The new law adds more hurdles to obtaining the full $10,000 in medical coverage.

  • If an insured fails to seek medical treatment within 14 days of the accident, PIP will not pay any medical expenses. None. It is not unusual for injuries to manifest themselves worthy of medical care more than 14 days after an accident. It is also not unusual for people with real injuries but busy schedules to need more than 14 days to obtain medical care. Factor in the difficulty of obtaining an appointment with a doctor and we anticipate that this provision will eliminate coverage for many policy holders.
  • Unless the medical treatment is for an “Emergency Medical Condition,” PIP payments will be limited to $2,500. (EMC is defined in the new legislation as: (a) Serious jeopardy to patient health; (b) Serious impairment to bodily function; (c) Serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.) This provision will likely spawn significant litigation from medical providers, especially for hospital emergency room services. Nonetheless, it is clearly a high standard that will reduce PIP payments in most cases.

Undoubtedly, the overall impact of the legislation will be to reduce PIP medical payments. Ironically, the legislation does not impose a mandatory reduction in insurance premiums.

Profits over people. And the beat goes on….

The PIP bill was Governor Scott’s pet project. When provisions important to him appeared in jeopardy, he was seen lobbying legislators on the Senate floor during the closing days of the session. Not surprisingly, insurance carriers have contributed handsomely to groups affiliated with Rick Scott. In fact, just days before passage of the PIP bill, United Group Underwriters, an affiliate of United Automobile Insurance Company, one of the most prominent PIP insurers in South Florida, gave $100,000 to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee (PAC). Talk about quid pro quo….

Florida’s PIP law has changed dramatically in favor of insurance companies since its birth in 1972. In 1972, PIP paid 100% of meds and 80% of wages compared to an 80/60 split today, and at-fault parties could be sued for personal injuries if bills exceeded $ 1,000 compared to having to establish a permanent impairment.

The changes mentioned here, combined with significant changes in 2008 that keyed medical reimbursements to the Medicare fee schedule rather than a doctor’s reasonable and customary charges, demonstrate how individuals are continually losing out to corporations.

These changes do not come about by chance. They are the result of real decisions by real people. Right now in Florida, the real people making these real decisions favor big business over people. (Like Mitt Romney, they probably believe that corporations are people.)

We invite you to contact us toll-free at 866-785-GALE or by email to obtain a free, confidential consultation to learn your legal rights.

Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.

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