Chief Financial Office Atwater grilled at Twitter Town Hall on Personal Injury Protection

Apr 6, 2011

The following news release was issued by the Office of Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater on April 6, 2011:

CFO Atwater Grilled at Twitter Town Hall on PIP

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater fielded about a dozen questions Tuesday during a 30-minute town hall he hosted on Twitter about personal injury protection, or PIP, fraud.

“Combating auto insurance fraud is a top priority for me. It drives up costs!” he wrote to launch the discussion. “Since I took office in January, my office has arrested 114 individuals for auto insurance fraud. That is almost 2 per day.”

Florida, like 11 other states, requires personal injury protection coverage to ensure people hurt in auto accidents have a way to pay their own medical bills regardless of which driver is at fault. The requirement is designed to avoid lawsuits and the costs associated with them for minor injuries. Legislation to to change how PIP claims are handled stalled in a Senate committee Tuesday.

Here’s a sampling of the questions and answers.

Q. Robert Heath, a trial attorney in Pensacola: “ posted an article today that Fla. auto rates are BELOW the national avg. Were you aware of that?…How does capping atty fees for claimant but not ins. co. fight fraud?”

A. Atwater: “What I do know is that avg PIP premiums in FL have nearly doubled in the last 2 years. Need to reverse that trend.”

Q. Dave Blair: “how many agents do you have investigating the insurance companies that continuously underpay legitimate claims?…do you agree Fl. No-Fault laws provide numerous ways for insurers to deny legitimate claims?”

A. Atwater: “PIP law is to hold insurance companies accountable to pay timely & fully. Any company not complying must be held accountable…That is a legitimate concern and have every expectation that OIR is looking at every concerns raised and addressing it.”

Q. Justin Presser, an attorney in Maitland: “Do you believe that a medical provider should be able to challenge an insurance company’s reduction to its bill?… How does forcing a medical provider to sit for an Examination Under Oath prevent PIP fraud?”

A. Atwater: “Looking forward to the upcoming OIR data call to shed light on your good question.”

Q. Tony Vetter, a GEICO Special Investigation Unit investigator: “Mr. Atwater, can you say when solid enforcement efforts are going to come to Southwest Florida in fighting PIP fraud?”

A. Atwater: “We have active investigations underway and we are working on additional manpower to deploy in that region.”

Q. Sarah Rumpf, a Republican political consultant in Orlando, asked: “My old law firm rejected clients who kept getting in ‘accidents.’ Are there databases to keep track of repeat offenders?”

A. Atwater: “Yes. We work in collaboration with National Insurance Crime Bureau on this.”

Q. Michael De Gruccio, a director of the Broward County Young Republicans: “CFO Atwater How do the clinics recruit participants in staged auto accidents?”

A. Atwater: “Monetary kickbacks and promises of financial gain.”