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Tampa Tribune: PIP reform: Attack fraud, not choice

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

PIP reform: Attack fraud, not choice

By BILL NEWTON | Special to The Tampa Tribune
Published: February 25, 2012 Updated: February 25, 2012 – 12:00 AM

We all agree: Florida’s personal injury protection system is broken, and we must reform it.

As executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network and a board member of consumer groups, I’ve spent considerable time and effort on PIP legislation. This year, the Legislature is considering two bills that propose PIP reform. These bills differ vastly.

The House’s PIP reform proposal, filed by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, has been trumpeted as the solution to PIP fraud and a panacea for reducing auto insurance premiums.

In my view, it does nothing to curb fraud but instead limits consumer choices.

The real motivation behind HB 119 is making it easier for insurance companies to deny PIP payments and increase profits.

Boyd’s bill requires auto accident victims to seek initial treatment at overcrowded hospital ERs within a scant 72-hour window. The victims must be diagnosed with an ambiguously defined “emergency medical condition” with injuries of “sufficient severity.”

And who pays for the care if it fails the auto insurer’s “sufficient severity” standard? You. Expect health insurance rates to rise as they absorb the costs denied by auto insurers.

Senate Bill 1860, filed by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, will reduce fraud while protecting consumers. With support from a range of interests — insurers, medical providers and consumers — the Senate PIP reform proposal attacks the problem of fraud, not consumer choice.

It creates harsher penalties for perpetrators, better regulates medical providers and gives law enforcement the tools needed to get to the bottom of fraud cases.

FCAN urges the Legislature to get tough on criminals, not consumers, and pass Negron’s bill.

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