March 22, 2013

PIP wars heating up, in court this time

 The PIP wars are back on.

After a lengthy legislative battle over Florida’s 2012 personal injury protection auto insurance reform, stakeholders are battling it out in court over whether HB 119 went too far.

Acupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors scored a win earlier this week when a circuit court judge placed a temporary ban on the part of the law that restricted them from receiving payment for treating auto accident patients. The judge also put a hold on the part of the law that reduced maximum PIP payouts from $10,000 to $2,500 in non-emergency cases, saying it was likely unconstitutional.

Gov. Rick Scott, who backed the law, immediately filed an appeal—which effectively halted the injunction, leaving the status quo in place while the court challenge plays out.

On Friday, the acupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors filed a motion to vacate the stay on the injunction, another legal maneuver to strike down parts of the law. 

In the motion, they said the “stay works an injustice on the Plaintiffs and the citizens of Florida and should be vacated for compelling circumstances.”

The plaintiffs argued that more harm would be done to them by continuing with the status quo than would be done to the state if the injunction went into effect. 

Continue reading "PIP wars heating up, in court this time" »

March 20, 2013

Part of PIP law temporarily blocked by state court

A Leon County judge has approved a temporary ban on part of the landmark auto insurance overhaul passed last year by the Florida Legislature.

The Personal Injury Protection reform bill targeted chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists, restricting their ability to provide covered treatment for people injured in auto accidents.

They sued and Leon County Judge Terry Lewis ruled this week hat they had a good chance at succeeding and deserved a temporary injunction on certain provisions of HB 119.

Lewis found that the bill violates the part of the Florida Constitution that provides for access to courts.

The judge ruled that that portion of HB 119 should be temporarily banned as the lawsuit runs its course.

The judge also ruled that a provision in PIP reform that limits covered medical care to $2,500 if the injured person does not have “an emergency medical condition.” The typical policy limits under Florida’s no-fault law are $10,000.

 HB 119 was a top priority of Gov. Rick Scott in 2012, and is another example of a law the governor pushed, only to see a judge rule it unconstitutional months later.

Scott weighed in with a statement, saying he would continue to fight in support of the law.

 "Our personal injury protection legislation was designed to stop the high costs passed on to Florida families by car insurance companies because of excessive lawsuits, waste and fraud," he said. "Since our legislation, more than 70 percent of the insurance rates approved by the Office of Insurance Regulation have either decreased or held steady, compared to a majority of rate increases before our reforms. Our reforms are working to lower insurance costs for Florida families and we will continue to fight special interest groups to keep them in place."

The chiropractors had a better outcome in state court than they did in federal court, where a judge denied the plea for an injunction in December.


June 20, 2012

FDLE clears governor of wrongdoing in missing transition emails

After a 10-month investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has cleared the governor's office of any wrongdoing in the disappearance of transition emails from the public record.

The Herald/Times first discovered in August 2011 that many of the emails had been erased from a server run by the communications company that worked for the governor's transition team during the two-month period between the time the governor was elected and took office. Scott then asked the agency that reports to the governor and Cabinet to investigate and then was forced to launch a massive retrieval effort to recover many of the documents.

At the time, former CFO Alex Sink, who lost to Scott in the 2010 race for governor, criticized the decision to use FDLE instead of an independent investigator. FDLE chief Gerald Bailey reports to Scott and the Florida Cabinet, all of whom are Republicans.

The governor's office said Wednesday that it recovered "more than 4.5 gigabytes of electronic data representing more than 33,000 pages of transition emails and documents" and turned them over to FDLE. 

The episode also contributed to a distrust of the governor's transition team and top staff among the public and media in Florida and led to what the governor's office described as "a massive number of public records requests for Scott Transition Team documents."

In response to the reaction, the governor directed FDLE "to use electronic forensic search methods to recover lost emails and further required every member of the transition team, including volunteers, to turn over all documents related to transition business,'' the governor's statement said.

The governor's office said that because of its efforts to cast "the widest possible net and using cutting-edge technology," it believes it has produced more gubernatorial transition documents than any other governor in Florida history. It has posted the collection of transition documents in searchable format on the Sunburst web site.

To prevent future newcomers to the office from making the same mistake, the Legislature passed a law this year spelling out that transition documents are considered a public record and must be preserved under Florida public records laws.

Here's the press release:

Continue reading "FDLE clears governor of wrongdoing in missing transition emails" »

May 03, 2012

Scott to sign PIP bill in Jacksonville and then take a river cruise

Sen. John Thrasher told the Herald/Times Thursday he will accompany Gov. Rick Scott Friday in Jacksonville where he will sign the legislature's attempted crackdown on automobile insurance fraud by signing the so-called PIP bill.

Scott will then accompany Thrasher on a cruise down the St. John's River to show him the value of the region's rare north-flowing river.

The yet-to-be announced event is a sign that Scott is willing to put into law the auto insurance reform into law despite a glitch in the measure that could cause serious trouble for health care professionals seeking reimbursement for treating victims of auto injury. The Palm Beach Post reported last week that the bill might prevent some PIP providers such as doctors, chiropractors, medical schools and dentists from receiving payment between July 1 and Jan. 1.

November 10, 2011

New coalition seeks to rein in PIP fraud

A new coalition calling itself Gear Up Florida emerged Thursday and called for four specific reforms to reduce the epidemic of car accident insurance fraud in Florida. The group does not support elimination of the law requiring motorists to carry mandatory $10,000 of personal injury protection, known as PIP. 

Noting that the state leads the nation in staged car accidents and questionable claims, coalition members called for these steps: giving insurance companies more time to investigate suspicious claims; limiting attorney's fees in PIP (personal injury protection) cases; stricter oversight of pain clinics; and cracking down on the use of what the coalition called alternative medical treatments such as massage therapy.

"A few bad actors are preying on individuals and it's increasing costs for the entire insurance marketplace," said Katherine Webb of the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America.

Tammy Perdue, general counsel for Associated Industries of Florida, cited lax regulation of so-called pain clinics as a major factor in PIP fraud. Calls for stricter regulation may encounter some skepticism in an anti-regulation Legislature, but Perdue said:  "In this case, it's a matter of public safety."   

Coalition members include Associated Industries of Florida, the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America, the Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Elder Care Advocacy of Florida and the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. PIP fraud is likely to be a major issue in the 2012 legislative session that begins Jan. 10.

-- Steve Bousquet

October 01, 2007

September 28, 2007

Legislature releases "call'' with no PIP

In a sign that the distance between the House and Senate is still too great on restoring no-fault auto insurance (PIP) and property taxes, House and Senate leaders have released their official agenda for the special session that begins Oct. 3 and it doesn't include those issues. Download special_session_call_9_28_07.pdf

September 27, 2007

House releases PIP compromise

House leaders release proposed compromise with the Senate to restore no-fault coverage in Florida after it expires next week. Here's the draft: Download pip_draft_2_92707.pdf  Here's the letter from House lead on the issue, Rep, Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale: Download bogdanoff_92707.doc

This bill extends the requirement for drivers to buy $10,000 of personal injury protection, also known as PIP. It contains some anti-fraud measures.

September 19, 2007

Gelber wants seat at PIP food fight

House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber weighs in today with another one of his epistles to House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt, this time demanding the no-fault negotiations be brought into the sunlight. Download gelber_letter_on_auto_insur.pdf The talks prompted Rubio on Tuesday to call it "one of the messiest special interest food fights I've ever seen.''

Gelber said that, as with the regular session, when the issue was never raised nor reviewed openly in committee but negotiated extensively behind closed doors, "sadly, history is repeating itself.''

"Rather than rush to slap together a compromise in private, we ought to give the legislature an opportunity to craft a real solution in public and in plain sight.'' But as Gelber's message went out, the governor's office was hosting a meeting for the third consecutive day on the issue. At the table: lobbyists representing auto insurers, hospitals, lawyers and the governor's point man on the issue, attorney Chris Kise. Kise is then conducting shuttle diplomacy between House and Senate leaders on the issue.

Could the meetings be moved into the open? Yes, says one of the participants, "but no one would say anything."