CS/HB 119 Passes House Civil Justice Subcommittee unamended

Jan 25, 2012


The Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee (Subcommittee) this morning took up and passed CS/HB 119 relating to motor vehicle insurance.  CS/HB 119, sponsored by Representative Boyd (R-Bradenton), would substantially revise Florida’s current personal injury protection (PIP) law by creating the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Emergency Care Coverage Law.  Although two amendments to the bill were filed by Rep. Gaetz during the meeting, both were ultimately withdrawn and the bill passed unamended.

Rep. Boyd explained the PIP fraud problem to the Subcommittee members and referred to the Insurance Consumer Advocate’s recent report on PIP fraud as the basis for CS/HB 119.  He described the concept of emergency care coverage provided in the bill, as well as the other provisions to help stem rampant PIP fraud.  Other measures in the bill include:  requiring a long form crash report; providing a tolling provision in the event fraud is suspected; providing for Examinations Under Oath (EUO) of medical providers; providing a limit on attorney fees; and barring application of the contingency risk multiplier.  According to Rep. Boyd, the new emergency care coverage will allow those who are truly injured in an accident to receive the appropriate treatment and will result in premium decreases for the mandatory coverage.


Subcommittee Members’ Questions

The Subcommittee members questioned Rep. Boyd about certain provisions in the bill.  Several members raised concerns about the bill, while acknowledging that PIP fraud needs to be addressed. 

Rep. Soto noted that 72 hours may not be enough time in the case of a latent injury.  He further noted that directing auto accident victims to emergency rooms could affect waiting times.  Democratic Ranking Member Rep. Steinberg questioned Rep. Boyd about the definition of “Emergency medical condition” and whether it is too restrictive.  He also raised issues regarding when the tolling period would end and how “reasonable compensation” for medical providers to attend EUOs would be determined.  Rep. Steinberg asked about mechanisms to keep insurers from systematically underpaying claims.  Monte Stevens from the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) fielded that question, responding that mechanisms and remedies exist in the insurance code to address those situations.

Rep. Bernard asked why an attempt to reform PIP was being made rather than moving to mandatory bodily injury coverages.  Rep. Boyd responded that he believes PIP is still a viable option if the fraud can be addressed, and that he would not want to expand the scope of mandatory coverages unnecessarily.   Rep. Bernard also inquired about the types of questions that could be asked during EUOs.

Rep. Gaetz raised concerns regarding the emergency medical condition, attorney fee limits, and EUO provisions.  Rep. Boyd informed the Subcommittee that the definition of “emergency medical condition” is the same wording that exists in the hospital licensing law.

Rep. Harrison asked whether coverage was limited to emergency rooms only, or whether an auto accident victim could go to an urgent care center and still receive benefits.  Rep. Boyd explained that treatment would need to be rendered by either a traditional emergency room or a hospital-owned walk-in clinic, which is part of the hospital’s license.


Public Testimony

Numerous public comment cards were filled out, prompting Subcommittee Chair Rep. Eisnaugle to limit the time members of the public could address the Subcommittee.  Public testimony in support of the bill included comments from Monte Stevens of the OIR, as well as representatives from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fraud Alert Team, Florida Sheriff’s Association, Florida Justice Reform Institute, an insurance agent, and State Farm.  

Several attorneys expressed their opposition to the bill, focusing their comments on the EUO and attorney fee cap provisions. 

Representatives of the medical community expressed their concerns regarding emergency rooms becoming overcrowded and the EUO provisions.

 A couple of chiropractors and a representative of the Florida Chiropractric Association expressed their opposition to the bill.


Proposed Amendments

Following public testimony, Rep. Gaetz filed two hand-written amendments.  The first amendment would remove lines 1145 to 1203 of the bill, which is the EUO requirement.   The second amendment would remove lines 240 to 276, which is the attorney fee cap.  Following debate on the amendments, Rep. Gaetz agreed to withdraw both amendments and instead work with Rep. Boyd on these issues.



The Subcommittee members then debated the bill.  Many of the concerns raised through prior questions and public comments were reiterated.  Many Subcommittee members acknowledged a pressing need to address PIP fraud despite the concerns raised.  Rep. Harrison in particular noted that, although he has misgivings on certain provisions in the bill, “90% of the bill is good.”

Rep. Boyd then closed on the bill.  He promised to working through the issues raised, and asked the Subcommittee members to pass the bill to address PIP fraud.

A vote was taken and the bill was passed.


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