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Move to ditch no-fault car insurance coming in Senate

Legislation is being drafted to scrap the state’s no-fault auto insurance coverage, as a landmark 2012 effort to remove fraud from the system remains tied up in court.

Insurance industry representatives say they have already been told the measure could come before a committee in November, and they’re just waiting to see what is in the package.

Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said he’s advancing the measure at the request of a number of insurance officials who don’t expect reforms to the state’s decade-old Personal Injury Protection (PIP) auto insurance system to fully take hold.

"I’ve had several of our major insurance companies come to me and say that they are ready to move on, and that’s irrespective of a First District Court of Appeal ruling," Simmons said. "They’re saying that the system is broke, we acknowledge it’s broken, it’s difficult to fix the unfixable."

An appeals court ruling is pending in a challenge by a group of acupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors over a reduction of individual medical coverage and the contention that the law reduces access to courts.

The ruling is expected to be taken to the state Supreme Court regardless of the outcome.

The 2012 law signed by Gov. Rick Scott requires those involved in motor vehicle crashes to seek treatment within 14 days and allows up to $10,000 in benefits for emergency medical conditions and $2,500 for non-emergency conditions.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled March 20 the law illegally prevents accident patients from using PIP claims to pay for treatment by acupuncturists and massage therapists and limits the services from chiropractors. He also found fault with the law’s lower limit on how much will be paid for non-emergency medical care.

Backed by Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, the law was considered a last-ditch effort to maintain the no-fault, or PIP, system that requires motorists to carry $10,000 in medical coverage. Scott and Atwater contended that fraud involving no-fault claims collectively has hit motorists by as much as $1 billion a year through the increased costs of coverage.

Simmons said for most motorists moving to bodily injury coverage wouldn’t require much change to existing policies.

The state Office of Insurance Regulation has estimated that more than 70 percent of motorists already have some bodily injury coverage.

At the end of the 2013 session, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted in support of replacing PIP with bodily injury coverage in a similar measure (SB 7152). But the proposal failed to advance.

Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council, said his members are waiting to see what is included in Simmons’ proposal, with keen interest on what would be considered an appropriate level of costs for bodily injury coverage and if there is any medical pay coverage.