Florida issues rule to fix error in new car insurance law

May 8, 2012

The following article was published in The Palm Beach Post on May 8, 2012:

State issues rule to fix error in new car insurance law

By John Kennedy

TALLAHASSEE — A state agency issued a memo Tuesday aimed at fixing a flaw in Florida’s new auto insurance law, which Gov. Rick Scott has hailed as one of the top accomplishments of the 2012 Florida Legislature.

The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration said in the three-page memo that it intends to eliminate a six-month gap in eligibility for health care professionals that potentially would allow insurance companies not to pay some personal injury protection (PIP) providers such as doctors, chiropractors, medical schools and dentists.

Under the law signed by Scott last week, these providers were to lose their eligibility July 1.

Later in the act, providers’ eligibility is restored – but not until Jan. 1, 2013, raising concerns about whether insurance companies might have legal standing to stiff health care professionals who treat accident victims covered by the $10,000 mandatory PIP policies Florida motorists carry.

The PIP system has been plagued by fraud and excessive billings, lawmakers and investigators have said. Scott pushed hard for the changes included in this year’s legislation (HB 119), although critics say the new law is too favorable toward insurance companies and doesn’t do enough to reduce PIP rates for consumers.

But whether a state agency can correct a conflict in law with a simple memo is a deeper question, said Mark Seidenfeld, an administrative law expert at Florida State University.

“A memo, executive order or rule issued by an agency can influence a court in deciding the intent of the new law,” Seidenfeld said. “But there’s no guarantee. You can be sure, though, this is going to be challenged in court.”

Although not directly related to the problems with the new law, Miami personal injury attorney Marlene Reiss said she is already planning to sue to have the measure overturned as unconstitutional. Reiss contends the new law undermines a 38-year-old Florida Supreme Court ruling that endorsed the state’s PIP law as effectively balancing a motorists’ reduced rights to sue with the promise of swift payments of medical claims.

Find this article here:  http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/state/state-issues-rule-to-fix-error-in-new-2346590.html