Posts Tagged ‘Florida legislature’

Legislators, are you listening to the urgent call for PIP reform?

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Perk up your ears, Florida legislators. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) reform needs to be the priority of the 2012 session.

Tampa Bay Online has weighed in with an excellent editorial that reflects what people in that metropolitan area feel about a situation that has gotten out of control.

“While the main purpose of the law is good — to ensure that medical bills are covered in a timely manner, and without litigation — the system has spawned an epidemic of fraud in Florida as breathtaking as the crack cocaine explosion of the 1980s,” the editorial states. (Read entire editorial here.)

“Motorists who pay little attention to such things should pay attention. You’re paying for all this. Insurance industry officials say the average ‘fraud tax,’ as it’s called, on Florida drivers was $48.62 per vehicle last year, meaning a family with two cars paid nearly $100,” the editorial states.

We told legislators the same things during the 2011 session and they promised action. However, the votes never materialized. Most PIP reform bills died in committee, others on the floor. The one or two that passed were watered down.

Why? Special interests. The editorial urges legislators to resist the same efforts to thwart PIP reform. “They must not buckle to the selfish interests of lawyers, clinic operators and others who are benefitting most from a flawed system rampant with fraud,” the editorial states.

The editorial commends Hillsborough County commissioners for cracking down on PIP fraud with the toughest ordinance in the state. We agree and go a step forward.

The law should be a model for all counties in Florida. Every county commission from Monroe to Escambia should adopt the same rules that, among other things, mandates having a physician on site and allows the county to deny or revoke a license for fraud-related reasons.

Thank you, Tampa Bay Online, for speaking up for all Florida drivers and trying to get the attention of our state legislators. Let’s hope that they listen.

Start the Florida legislative push for PIP reform today

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Florida legislators don’t return to Tallahassee until March, but they’ll listen to drivers now about what needs to be done to make auto insurance more affordable. Tell your representative and senator that you want Personal Injury Protection (PIP) reform.

PIP costs are skyrocketing. Claims payouts jumped to roughly $2.3 billion in 2010 from $1.5 billion in 2006 even though the number of licensed drivers changed little and the number of crashes has went down. Florida drivers pay some of the highest injury-related premiums because of widespread claims abuse and questionable accidents.

Robin Westcott, the state’s new insurance consumer advocate, will have PIP legislation ready by December. She is an insurance expert, having served as the director and assistant director of property and casualty financial oversight within the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. She monitored companies for solvency and compliance with Florida’s financial requirements for property and casualty insurance companies.

Her recommendations on auto insurance reform will be based on input from state senators, representatives and others. Gov. Rick Scott, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater have all voiced support for new PIP legislation.

Several bills introduced in the 2011 session would have capped attorneys’ fees and tightened rules for filing claims. Lobbyists for lawyers, doctors, chiropractors and others who stood to lose money under the proposed laws persuaded the legislature to either vote down or not consider the measures.

Those special interests have to be defeated in 2012. Florida’s five largest automobile insurers have raised PIP premiums 35 percent to 72 percent in recent years.

One insurer reported that a typical annual PIP premium for a married 40-year-old woman in Miami increased nearly 80 percent from $450 in 2005 to over $800 in 2011, according to an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

In today’s economy, with gas prices still a dollar a gallon above 2010 levels, how much more can drivers afford? Insurance companies can absorb only so much of the increase of the cost of paying PIP and other accident-related claims. Commissioner Atwater has said that if drivers’ premiums don’t go up to cover those expenses, some insurers might stop doing business in Florida.

PIP insurance has gotten out of hand, and drivers have a chance to do something about it. Tell your legislator you demand PIP reform.

Summit with Florida CFO Atwater highlights PIP fraud

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Despite cries of foul from plaintiff lawyers, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefit payments continue to rise and with that, so does rampant abuse of auto insurance. The latest numbers on PIP fraud were revealed at a summit in late June 2011.

More than $8 billion in PIP claims have been paid in the past five years, said Monte Stevens of the Government Affairs Unit of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. The rate of PIP-related lawsuits has increased by over 300 percent during that time.

Another disturbing trend: $1billion more was paid out in auto insurance claims in 2010 than 2009, according to the OIR.

The summit was called because PIP fraud has become widespread in Florida. The state has 3 of the top 10 cities for PIP fraud in the nation, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

By Florida law, drivers must carry PIP insurance. The coverage pays up to $10,000 in benefits and lost wages per incident. Each Florida driver pays an extra $49 per year in PIP premiums due to fraud, according to insurance industry estimates.

Action is needed, agreed the summit participants who included Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Florida Rep. Bryan Nelson (Apopka), Rep. Geraldine Thompson (Orlando), Sen. Gary Siplin (Orlando) and representatives from the OIR, NICB and Central Florida law enforcement agencies. The Rotary Club of West Orlando hosted the event.

When Sen. Siplin asked CFO Atwater about enforcement efforts, Atwater said his goal was to punish fraudsters. He asked event attendees to contact Florida’s insurance fraud hotline or the state prosecutor’s office if they suspect auto insurance fraud.

Atwater also advocated holding more PIP-fraud summits around the state to make drivers more aware of how much extra they pay in premiums due to widespread fraud.

Florida Rep. Mike Horner (Kissimmee), who was in the audience, told the group that efforts to stem PIP abuses through legislation failed during the 2011 legislative session. He said reform measures failed due to lobbying pressure from the legal and medical communities, which profit from the PIP system through lawsuits and benefit payments.

Rep. Horner said he plans to re-file PIP-reform bills in the 2012 session.

Stop PIP fraud before legislative session ends

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

It’s not too late to tell your state legislator to stop PIP fraud.

Watch this brief video and take action now!

Contact your Florida senator.

Contact your Florida representative.

Time to put a stop to PIP fraud in Florida

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

We read with great interest the Feb. 22 article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on insurance fraud. The news story, headlined “High insurance premiums blamed on staged accidents,” provided strong insights into Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud, a problem that affects every Florida driver.

We applaud the efforts of Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, as well as state officials, to reform Florida’s broken no-fault automobile insurance laws.  The fraud is so widespread and organized that it is impossible to describe it in a few sound bites.

Certainly, staged auto accidents are a big problem, but the fraud runs much deeper with organized rings of unscrupulous PIP attorneys, store-front clinics, chiropractors, imaging centers and 800-number advertisements promising “big money” to auto accident victims.

Up until now, these bad actors have enjoyed unfettered access to the wallets of Florida drivers. The results have been skyrocketing auto insurance premiums and the demise of several insurers.

What is not talked about is that the vast majority of PIP injury claims involve low-impact accidents with no apparent injuries at the scene. These often result in providers making claims for soft tissue injuries weeks later on behalf of two or three individuals with each of their $10,000 in PIP benefits 100 percent expended.

If an insurance company cries foul and refuses to pay what it considers fraudulent claims, as many as three to four separate lawsuits per individual from each medical provider ensues. That frequently results in more than $100,000 in attorney fees for a single accident.

That is not the picture the Florida Consumer Action Network painted of accident victims being unable to pay for attorneys to fight their insurance companies.  More than 90 percent of PIP lawsuits are filed on behalf of clinics and medical providers, not individuals.  Those businesses don’t seem to have any trouble finding attorneys to take their cases.

As Property Casualty Insurers spokesperson William Stander stated, creating a state arbitration program for dispute resolution would take literally thousands of questionable cases out of the overwhelmed court system and remove the incentive for committing fraud (attorney’s fees).

It’s time for that program to begin. If you’re a driver fed up with rising insurance premiums, let your Florida representative and senator know that you want relief – and you want it now.

Does New York ‘no-fault’ lead to PIP fraud? The signs point to ‘yes’

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Listen up Florida legislators, especially those of you who grew up or lived in the New York City area. Personal injury protection (PIP) fraud is on the rise and drivers in the Big Apple are carrying the cost. Florida has the same problem and there’s something you can do about it.

An extensive study of more than 4,500 instances in which New Yorkers filed PIP claims tell how badly PIP insurance is being abused. In New York City, 4 out of 10 people who claimed they were injured in an accident said they visited an acupuncturist for treatment. Upstate, only 3 in 50 filed such claims.

For chiropractic treatments, 5 in 10 of those living New York and its suburbs filed claims versus 2 in 10 upstate residents. Overall, 44% of those injured in New York City-area accidents visited 4 or more healthcare providers versus just 14% upstate.

Even factoring in cosmopolitan differences, the PIP numbers don’t add up, according to the Insurance Research Council. The council and state fraud investigators say that organized groups of fraudsters are using minor or fake accidents to run up medical and lost-wage bills that by law can total as much as $50,000 per person per accident.

In Florida, PIP claims are capped at $10,000, but the problem is still the same: People are ripping off the auto insurance system.  Even though there is a $10,000 cap for medical benefits, the attorneys fees awarded in Florida PIP cases far exceed that amount and make PIP a very lucrative fraud business.

Medical care providers are milking auto insurance companies with faked injuries, staged accidents and the like. When insurers don’t pay fast enough, the clinics tap plaintiff attorneys who will sue for as little as $1.29.

Who gets stuck with the bill? In New York, not the insurance companies. Drivers in the Bronx paid an average of $754 a year in PIP premiums in 2009, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. That was more than three times as much as the state as a whole, which averaged just $202.

Wondering how you can help your constituents, Florida legislator? Join the fight against PIP fraud. You’ll be helping your neighbors, the police and the courts. You can even show New Yorkers how it’s done.

2011: The year of action on PIP fraud

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

What does 2011 hold for efforts to fight personal injury protection (PIP) fraud in Florida?

Lots.

And Florida residents can help in the PIP fraud clean-up by supporting the Chief Financial Officer and the dedicated investigators and prosecutors of his Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF).

CFO Jeff Atwater recently said he will be seeking tough sentences for perpetrators who try to rip-off the system. Now we get word from the Florida’s director of the division of insurance fraud that a new PIP squad has been added in Tampa to crack down on what’s ranked the worst region in the United States for PIP fraud.

“There is no shortage of criminals who seek to commit fraud at every opportunity,” writes director John Askins in his division’s January 2011 newsletter.” The dedicated law enforcement officers at DIF are determined to do their best to investigate and arrest them.”

The division has also hired a senior attorney in Miami to coordinate efforts and improve results in prosecutions. In addition, the division “is working for legislation that will eliminate loopholes used by accident clinics,” Askins writes in the newsletter. “We are asking for additional dedicated prosecutors to help us send more of these criminals to jail.”

How can Floridians help? By writing urging legislators to vote for legislation that would crack down on the PIP fraud that keeps pushing insurance premiums higher and higher. Legislators should also fund, even in these tough economic times, staffing to chase down and lock up PIP fraudsters.

The auto insurance industry is doing its part in 2011. The International Association of Special Investigation Units, a non-profit organization funded by insurers, is educating insurers on how to spot PIP fraud and helping law enforcement officials with their investigations.

Insurers are putting more than money into the effort to fight PIP fraud. Ohio Farmers Insurance Company has donated a car to DIF that it can use in undercover surveillance along the west coast of the state. The car will help law enforcement officials uncover the PIP fraud rings that are rampant that region.