Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee Amends, Passes HB 967 Relating to Personal Injury Protection Insurance (PIP)
Mar 23, 2011
Today, March 23, 2011, the Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee considered House Bill 967 relating to Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) Insurance by State Representative Mike Horner. The bill addresses many areas to improve the PIP system, such as attorney fee reform, allowing insurers to mandate arbitration, and requiring examinations under oath for medical providers and others.
According to Representative Horner, the current PIP system amounts to a $50 “fraud tax” on PIP coverages.
During debate on HB 967, the Subcommittee adopted a technical amendment regarding the Medicare fee schedule.
The Subcommittee also adopted an amendment that represented a compromise with the Florida Medical Association (“FMA”) and other interested parties regarding attorney fee cap increases. However, the FMA felt the increases did not go far enough and opposed the bill. This amendment establishes a new attorney fee three-tiered system:
1. Amount in dispute: $0.01 – $500; attorneys’ fees available: the lesser of 15 times the awarded amount or $5,000
2. Amount in dispute: $500 – $5,000; attorneys’ fees available: the lesser of 10 times the awarded amount or $10,000
3. Amount in dispute: $5,000 – $10,000: attorneys’ fees available: the lesser of five times the awarded amount or $15,000
4. In no circumstance may an attorney’s fee award exceed $200.00 per hour
An amendment revising the arbitration provision also was adopted.
However, a strike-all amendment by State Representative Matt Gaetz was not adopted that would have severely gutted the bill by addressing certified mail requirements and fee schedule changes, as well as requiring long form requirements, clinic changes, anti-fraud warnings and the increase of penalties for those who commit fraud.
Representative Horner characterized Representative Gaetz’s amendment as disingenuous, saying it would strip the entire bill, as well as “hijack” a bill sponsored by State Representative Alan Boyd relating to fraud. He suggested to the legislators that they have the “courage and honesty” to vote on the bill before them.
State Representative Bill Hager then called a point of order pursuant to Rule 12.8 challenging the Gaetz amendment as not germane to HB 967, since the bill only addresses claim payment provisions.
State Representative Clay Ford, who was serving today as Chairman, ruled the amendment violates Rule 12.8 and said that the point of order was well taken.
Representative Hager’s point of order will likely be appealed to House Rules Chairman Gary Aubuchon for his judgment as requested by State Representative Marty Kiar.
Several insurance and business industry representatives testified in support of HB 967.
The Florida Medical Association, the Florida Chiropractic Association, the Florida Justice Association and others opposed the bill, noting in their testimony that attorney fee reform will hinder adequate representations. Further, they said, doctors should not be required to submit to examinations under oath, inasmuch as these are overly burdensome to their medical practice. Also, the arbitration provision in the bill is problematic, the representatives added.
A representative from the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud of Florida’s Department of Financial Services testified in support of HB 967, noting that attorney fee reform must be addressed in order to adequately reduce fraudulent claims.
Following significant discussions on the bill by the Subcommittee, HB 967 was passed as amended.
Representative Horner noted that he is open to continuing to work with his fellow legislators on the bill as it moves through the Committee process.
To view complete bill information on HB 967, click here.
Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Colodny Fass.