House Banking and Insurance Subcommittee Report: January 11, 2012
Jan 11, 2012
The House Banking and Insurance Subcommittee (Subcommittee) met this morning and discussed several insurance-related bills, including Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) for HB 119, relating to Motor Vehicle Insurance; HB 725, relating to Insurance Agents and Adjusters; HB 1053 relating to Long-Term Care Insurance; and HB 4149, relating to the Preferred Worker Program.
PCS for HB 119
The Subcommittee spent most of the meeting considering PCS for HB 119, by Representative Boyd. Rep. Boyd began his presentation of the PCS noting the primary substantive change between the PCS and the original bill was the shift in focus to provide coverage for emergency care in the event of an automobile accident, replacing personal injury protection (PIP) insurance with emergency care coverage. Specifically, the PCS creates the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Emergency Care Coverage Law. The bill would provide coverage only for emergency care obtained following an automobile accident and any follow-up care prescribed by the emergency care physician. The bill also requires that the emergency care treatment be provided within 72 hours of the accident in order to be covered. According to Rep. Boyd, these provisions would return the focus on prompt, proper, and professional treatment to those injured in an automobile accident and would serve to attack the fraud that has permeated the PIP system.
Rep. Julien proposed two amendments to the PCS. Amendment 1 would extend the time frame for receiving initial emergency care treatment from 72 hours to 14 days, noting that sometimes symptoms from an accident do not appear right away and that 72 hours is too short a time frame. Rep. Boyd acknowledged Rep. Julien’s point, but stated that he believes 14 days is too long. Rep. Boyd indicated a willingness to discuss this issue further as the bill moves through the legislative process, but noted his desire to pass the bill out of the Subcommittee without amendments. The amendment failed.
Amendment 2 would replace provisions in the PCS pertaining to examinations under oath (EUO) with the provisions contained in the existing statute. Rep. Boyd deemed this amendment to be “unfriendly,” and the amendment failed.
Questions and Discussion
Subcommittee members then raised questions on the PCS, including clarifying the requirement that persons injured in auto accidents must go to the emergency room first rather than one’s primary care physician. Specifically, it was asked whether this is a limitation on one’s right to choose their own doctor for care. Rep. Boyd stated his belief that emergency room care offered the best setting to triage such injuries.
It was also clarified that under the PCS, the death benefit provided would be the lesser of $5,000 or the remaining amount of emergency care coverage available.
With respect to attorney fee caps, it was asked whether this would present an uneven playing field, wherein the insured’s attorney would be limited in the amount of attorney fees while the insurance company’s attorney would not. Rep. Boyd stated that under this proposal, insureds would not need an attorney in most instances.
Subcommittee members also inquired about scenarios where the insured did not go to the emergency room first, but instead to their primary care physician or another facility, and whether treatment incurred as a result of an auto accident could then be denied under both auto insurance coverage and health insurance coverage.
The Subcommittee next took comments from the public. Chair Bryan Nelson requested that public testimony focus on the new aspect of emergency care coverage, rather than issues previously vetted in prior meetings on the bill.
Several people expressed support for the bill. Monte Stevens, representing the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), stated the OIR supports the bill “110 percent.” When asked to quantify the expected savings consumers will see on their auto insurance premiums, Mr. Stevens stated that this would be a new coverage and there is no easy way to compare to make that determination. According to Mr. Stevens, the PCS has been reviewed by Commissioner McCarty, OIR actuaries, and many others at OIR, all of whom agree that it will have the effect of lowering auto insurance rates in Florida.
An emergency room physician spoke in support of the bill on behalf of the Florida College of Emergency Room Physicians and the Florida Medical Association. He noted a few areas that warrant additional consideration, including the time frame to seek treatment. Specifically, he suggested that while 14 days may be too long, 72 hours may be too short for seeking treatment following an accident. He also suggested additional “triggers” for physicians subject to EUOs. Rep. Boyd and Chair Nelson both expressed interest in additional follow-up from the medical community to accommodate these concerns.
Many others expressed support of the PCS for the reason that PIP fraud is rampant and this bill will target the “hotbed of fraud” in Florida.
Opposition to the PCS also was expressed. PIP plaintiff attorneys spoke against the bill, focusing on perceived issues with directing all accident victims to emergency rooms, and the short time frame of 72 hours. One attorney noted that he would have to advise his clients to seek treatment at an emergency room following an auto accident, even if the injuries are not severe, in order to preserve the right to benefits under the policy. Another PIP attorney suggested that litigation will ensue concerning whether the injuries meet the definition of emergency medical services as set forth in the bill. Yet another PIP attorney noted that in his experience, insurance companies deny or reduce current emergency room bills, and this practice will be exacerbated if the bill is enacted.
Additional comments from the public suggested that primary care physicians should be included as “an acceptable point of entry into the system” in addition to emergency rooms.
Subcommittee members then debated the bill. Rep. Jenne and Rep. Steinberg stated they would not be able to support the bill because they believe it is unfair to the consumer. Rep. Albritton, Rep. Wood, and Chair Nelson all expressed support for the bill, stating they believe it will address rampant PIP fraud. Rep. Hager noted that he previously referred to the PIP system in Florida as a “rotting carcass,” and that this bill would make it “filet mignon.”
A vote was taken and PCS for HB 119 passed the Subcommittee by a vote of 10 to 5 along party lines. The next committee of reference for this bill is the Civil Justice Subcommittee.
The Subcommittee considered HB 1053 by Rep. Metz, relating to Long-Term Care Insurance, which would define the term “guaranteed renewable” for purposes of the Long-Term Care Insurance Act and provide that the continuation or renewal of a guaranteed renewable long-term care insurance policy does not result in the making of a new policy or contract or incorporate certain statutory or regulatory changes into the policy or contract. Debate was had on the propriety of not having statutory or regulatory changes enacted after the policy was issued into an existing policy. Following debate, a vote was taken and the bill passed favorably out of the subcommittee.
HB 725 by Rep. Hager relating to Insurance Agents and Adjusters was considered by the Subcommittee. A strike-all amendment was filed, which Rep. Hager described as a modernization bill designed to streamline laws applicable to agents and adjusters. Rep. Hager noted that this bill was filed at the behest of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and has the effect of eliminating some nominal fees and taxes. Further, it consolidates licensure for agents and adjusters. With no objection the strike-all amendment was adopted. A vote was taken on the bill as amended, which passed unanimously.
HB 4149 by Rep. Boyd, relating to Preferred Worker Program, was described as Rep. Boyd as a repealer bill to eliminate a defunct program that has no funding. There was no debate or questions regarding the bill. A vote was taken and HB 4149 passed unanimously.
Other bills considered by the Subcommittee included HB 505 relating to Mortgages, HB 669 relating to Public Depositories, and HB 4145 relating to Continuing Education Advisory Board. HB 4145 and HB 505, as amended, both passed. HB 669 was not passed by the Subcommittee.
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