No PIP Or The PIP We’ve Got?

After some rejoicing on the passage of CS/HB-119 out of the House Civil Justice Committee and all the hoopla that followed, I cautioned…”We’ve been this far before, even further”.  You can check the post titled, PIP Reform–A Big Week for the details on what happened and how CS/HB-119 is what’s needed to solve Florida’s PIP problem.

It’s, perhaps, because the house bill is so effective that opponents, trial lawyers and Chiropractors in particular, are seeking something, and someone, to help them keep living in the manner to which PIP has them accustomed.

That “something” is SB-1860 and the “someone” is its sponsor, handpicked by Senate President Mike Haridopolos to shepherd PIP reform in the upper chamber, Senator Joe Negron.

Thursday before last, after debate that an increasingly naive media referred to as a  “love fest”, SB-1860 passed “unanimously” out of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. But, no love was lost between the industry and those who, once again, seek to drag down meaningful reform.

Confirming the Senate’s milder commitment was when an amendment by Senator Garrett Richter, which would’ve added Emergency Care Coverage (ECC) similar to the house, had to be withdrawn for lack of support from several members of the committee, including the bill’s sponsor. Another amendment removing a prohibition against insurers including legal fees in rate requests was adopted and one prohibiting contingency risk multipliers was withdrawn–credence for the “love fest” moniker.

Make no mistake, SB-1860 makes changes, but…not enough to even dent the massive fraud in our  PIP system.  It’s kinda like, if your car was totaled in a crash someone suggesting that you need to get a new tail light. If SB-1860 were to pass under the banner of true reform it would guarantee the nation’s most fraudulent auto reparations system will continue to plague honest premium payers and reward crooks and cronies for at least another decade. My opinion, of course.

That’s why, the happenings in last week’s Senate B&I committee aren’t just an indication reformers need to redouble their efforts, particularly in the Senate; they were also an indication that, if real reform can’t be achieved…

… reformers should be caring less about what would replace PIP and more about how to get rid of it altogether!

Think about it…after almost a decade of trying, how can we let SB-1860 (as it is written), become what consumers believe will solve the problem?  Isn’t Florida better off without PIP or even no mandatory insurance at all, than it is with a mandatory purchase of only $10,000 of coverage that continues to reward accident fakers and, as CFO Atwater called them,  “…a circling pool of vicious sharks”?

Including commentary from yours truly, following are some of the Senate’s PIP fixes contained in SB 1860,

  • It eliminates PIP medical benefit reimbursement for massage and acupuncture but leaves Chiropractors and other yet unnamed or undiscovered abusers of the system alone.
  • It requires a long-form crash report for all crashes involving a passenger or when any party complains of pain or discomfort.  Helpful but, carriers are still under the gun to pay even when fraud is suspected, examinations under oath are still restricted and  the “circling pool of vicious sharks looking to make their millions off the backs of consumers” continue unscathed.
  • It clarifies the current fee schedule achieving very little because nothing is done to curb overutilization.
  • It requires entities providing health care services to be licensed as clinics to receive PIP reimbursement, subject to certain exemptions; Zzzzzzzzzz…..
  • It increases the criminal penalties for PIP fraud, which solves everything…NOT!
  • It makes other changes designed to appease various stakeholders but not solve the problem. See “Note” below.

Anyway, you get my picture and can paint your own using the full analysis of SB-1860  available by clicking here.  Compare the research and the background in the analysis that accompanies both the  Senate bill (SB-1860) and the House bill (CS/HB-119) and you decide which hits the bulls eye and which barely hits the target.

If SB-1860 can’t be amended to be more like the house bill, reformers have two paths, as I see it: the path of “no reform” or the path of “repeal PIP”.

No Reform– whatever happens don’t let SB-1860 pass as it is. No reform is better than “words on a page” that masquerade as reform.  Keep trying to amend SB-1860, of course, but…if not, don’t let it pass at all.  With  nothing it’s possible the Governor would call a special session which, in a redistricted election year, might be incentive to get ‘er done!

Repeal PIP… except for a cynical and frustrated few, nobody really wants this, but… no PIP is not only better than the PIP we’ve got, it “might” set the stage for real reform down the road.

Only one more committee stop before SB-1860 hits the Senate floor…time’s a wastin’!

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Note–SB-1860 also does the following: it gives priority to the payment of the $5,000 death benefit over other PIP benefits; it expands to hospitals the requirement to reserve $5,000 of PIP benefits (currently limited to physicians or dentists providing emergency treatment); it requires that insurers maintain a log of PIP benefits paid and provide a copy of the payment log within 30 days of request from the insured or an assignee, and; it requires insurers to accept electronic transmission of notices, documents, and other communications.

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Comments

  1. Hi Scott!

    As CFO Atwater and many others have said repeatedly, the most effective weapon in the battle against PIP fraud is dedicated fraud prosecutors and the law enforcement teams that work with them. That’s what worked in Miami and drove the fraudsters to Tampa and Orlando. It’s what we need to drive them out of the state.

    The Senate bill has a provision, called the Direct Support Organization or DSO, that allows insurance companies or others to donate to a fund for these prosecutors. Why do we have to beg for donations to get the law enforced? The Legislature can’t raise the money. They can’t raise taxes or fees even though it could save consumers money because they have signed pledges not to do so, or they fear election opponents that would pillory them for raising money for anything the government might do, even fight fraud. I’m sure you appreciate the irony.

    Some of the other measures in the Senate bill will help, and FCAN endorses Sen. Negron’s bill. The House bill, which we oppose, does nothing at all about fraud, not even the DSO.

    Since the Legislature can’t actually enforce the fraud laws by putting investigators and prosecutors on the job, they seek to reduce fraud by reducing the benefits available to consumer and making them harder to get. I have not doubt that eliminating massage therapists from PIP will reduce fraud, but it won’t take a single fraudster off the street. They’ll just find another way to get around the law.

    What people need to understand is that these are serious criminals, often organized crime rings, taking in millions of dollars. They corrupt all kinds of people along the way – probably everyone that could be involved in PIP could be corrupted or threatened into doing what the crooks want. They are clever criminals and they won’t be easily stopped. It’s a complex white collar crime and it’s difficult to make a case. The money is often shipped out of the country within hours. The people that “jump in” the staged accident cars are paid a few hundred at most and are too low level to know anything. Law enforcement has to work their way up the ladder to reach to ring leaders, or they just pop up again across town.

    So, just eliminate PIP. Does that mean the criminals will go away? Do we think they’ll go to community college and learn a new trade? No, they’ll still be criminals and they’ll still be on our streets committing crimes, but consumers, hospitals, doctors, and everyone else will have lost PIP. Don’t let the criminals win, go after the crooks with some real law enforcement firepower.

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