Governor Rick Scott declares victory after Florida Senate signs off on auto insurance fix

Mar 9, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on March 9, 2012:

Scott declares victory after Senate signs off on auto insurance fix

By Christine Jordan Sexton

Florida Gov. Rick Scott put on an aggressive lobbying effort during the final day of the session and in the end was able to successfully shepherd his top priority through what was considered a dysfunctional Senate.

In a vote after a lengthy and at times tense exchange, the Florida Senate voted narrowly to approve a fix for auto insurance backed by Scott.

The Senate first voted by a razor-sharp one-vote margin — 21 to 19 — to accept changes made by the House to HB 119. That was followed by a vote in favor of the bill by a more comfortable 22-17.

“Finally we did something everyone thought we couldn’t do,”  Scott said after the ceremonial end of the legislative session. “We we passed (a) property insurance PIP reform bill that is going to lower the cost of auto insurance for all Floridians. We are going to get rid of this fraud.”

Scott personally congratulated senators on the Senate floor just minutes after the final vote.

The bill dealing with personal injury protection insurance passed by a comfortable margin in the House. But its future in the Senate was shaky, and despite Scott’s assertions there was no role for government in rate setting, the bill was changed to require insurers to make reductions in rates based on presumed savings.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, D-Miami, gave a rousing speech on the Senate floor encouraging senators to reject the bill, calling the measure the “Insurance Company Relief Act of 2012.” While Diaz de la Portilla talked, a throng of House Republicans came in and sat on couches as he continued to attack their legislation.

That led Sen. Joe Negron, the bill sponsor, to warn against viewing the legislation as a “home and away” football game, and he went over each part of the bill and whether it was a Senate or House provision.

Under the final bill, judges would be precluded from awarding attorneys fee multipliers in PIP cases, but there are no caps on fees. The bill would require that attorney fees “comply with prevailing professional standards; not overstate or inflate the number of hours reasonably necessary for a case of comparable skill or complexity; and represent legal services that are reasonable and necessary to achieve the result obtained.”

Either party can require the judge to make written findings substantiated by the evidence that the attorney fees awarded comply with the law.

The bill maintains the $10,000 in benefits now included in PIP policies but alters it in some ways. For non-emergency care the benefit is limited to $2,500.  Death benefits are excluded from the $10,000 cap and are capped at $5,000. Physical therapy still is a covered benefit so long as the care is referred by a doctor or chiropractor

The bill requires clinics to be licensed if they are to receive any reimbursement for auto-related claims. There are exceptions for physician clinics, dentists, chiropractors, hospital-owned ambulatory surgical centers or a clinic that is affiliated with an accredited medical school.

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