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Health News Florida

Changes Coming to Accident Coverage

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Committees in both the House and Senate are considering a call to get rid of the state’s “no-fault” auto insurance coverage, and replace it with a system that would force the insurer of the at-fault  driver to pay. 

Such a system would require drivers to carry a different kind of coverage, replacing personal injury protection (PIP) with bodily injury.

Just 18 months ago, the Legislature passed reforms to the no-fault system intended to curtail fraud and abuse. This week three people from South Florida -- including a chiropractor and an owner of several clinics -- were sentenced to prison and ordered to repay millions of dollars, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The case featured people who pretended to be hurt in accidents and clinics that pretended to treat them.

But  the 2012 reforms were challenged in court by health-care groups were were shut off from coverage, including massage therapists and acupuncturists.  They won the first round and lost the second on technical grounds, but the appellate court sent a signal to the Legislature that the so-called reforms might be unconstitutional.

Thus, both the House and Senate are meeting this week in Tallahassee to talk about whether to keep tweaking the PIP provisions or replace the no-fault law altogether.

Sandra Starnes, director of property and casualty lines for the state Office of Insurance Regulation, told the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Tuesday that changing to a “tort” system -- so-called because some of the cases could end up in court -- would actually save a lot of money in Miami-Dade. The effect in other areas was more mixed, she said.

News Service of Florida offers more details.

--Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Editor Carol Gentry at 813-974-8629 (desk) or e-mail at cgentry@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.