Personal Injury Protection Reform Bill Drives Through House Panel Amid Opposition

Jan 26, 2012

The following article was published in The Sunshine State News on January 26, 2012:

PIP Reform Bill Drives Through House Panel Amid Opposition

By Kenric Ward

A personal injury protection bill patterned after Florida’s workers’ compensation program ran into a buzz saw of opposition at a jam-packed committee room Wednesday, but emerged relatively unscathed.

Soaring costs for mandatory motor vehicle PIP insurance are driving the demand for reform, said Rep. Jim Boyd, sponsor of House Bill 119.

“Florida has a billion-dollar [PIP] fraud industry,” the Bradenton Republican said. “The number of drivers is flat and accidents are down, but claim values are up and PIP premiums are up 66 percent.”

With some projections forecasting price increases of as much as 30 percent this year, the House Civil Justice Subcommittee approved Boyd’s bill after more than two hours of testimony and debate.

To curb costs, HB 119 sidelines so-called PIP clinics by mandating that accident victims report to a hospital emergency room or a hospital-owned clinic within 72 hours for treatment.

A long-form crash report must be completed at accident scenes to ascertain exactly who was involved.

The bill expands insurers’ authority to conduct wide-ranging examinations of physicians and staff under oath — a provision that opponents branded a “fishing expedition.”

Paul Lambert, of the Florida Chiropractic Association, labeled the 109-page HB 119 “an empty box that says minor injuries won’t be covered and you can’t select a doctor of your choice.”

But Monte Stevens, of the state Office of Insurance Regulation, said more accountability is needed.

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