Medical clinics running PIP scams, Miami Herald reports

The Miami Herald is showing Florida residents that Personal Injury Protection (PIP) scams are rampant and costly. One solution to the problem: Stronger laws to halt the abuses.

In a front-page article headlined, “PIP: The insurance that crooks can’t stop scamming,” the newspaper says that “…the no-fault nature of PIP is irresistible to crooks who stage phony accidents or simply submit bogus claims for non-existent medical treatment.”

During the past two years, state insurance investigators have arrested more than 400 people for fraud involving PIP policies, the Herald said.

That fraud inflates the auto insurance bill of a typical family by about $400 a year, Jeff Atwater, Florida’s new chief financial officer, told the newspaper.

We commend the Herald for its fine investigative work. Not enough people know just how bad the problem is. PIP scammers are stealing millions of dollars from Florida drivers every year. The laws are too weak and the police are outnumbered.

The Herald article reports that PIP fraud is running rampant in Tampa Bay and South Florida. The criminal activity has pushed Florida insurance premiums up to the fourth highest in the nation.

PIP scams abound, the Herald says. Clinic workers file claims for treatments never given, pay people to fake injuries, and even stage phony accidents. By Florida law, every driver and passenger can claim up to $10,000 per accident for medical treatments and lost wages related to auto-accident injuries.

State regulators admitted to the Herald that the financial incentives for committing PIP fraud have overwhelmed efforts to stop it.

“If you have a clinic that just gets two new patients a week they can bill $1 million a year,” Capt. Steve Smith, head of the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud’s south region, told the newspaper.

That kind of money attracts new crooked clinics when one is shut down, he said. “It’s like a hydra. You cut off one head and there’s two more.”

Legislators must reform PIP laws when they convene in March. We need better rules for clinic operators. The bad guys need to know that Florida won’t tolerate fraud.

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