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Scott and Atwater want PIP fix — but how?

by John Kennedy | November 15th, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater called on lawmakers Tuesday to revamp state law governing motorists’ personal injury protection (PIP), which critics say is costing Floridians an extra $1 billion a year in higher costs stemming from fraud, questionable medical treatment and legal costs.

Insurance rates for the $10,000 mandatory PIP coverage have spiked as much as 80 percent in some Miami and Tampa Bay-area neighborhoods between 2008 and 2010, according to state officials.

PIP insurance claims also are up 40 percent over that time even as accidents statewide have tumbled by 8 percent – with leaders saying the disparity stems from a rising number of suspected staged accidents to fraudulently draw payments.

Atwater turned to law enforcement officers flanking him Tuesday at a Capitol news conference, saying, “we’re going to get you some relief.”  He also said consumers needed help.

“They have been trying to swim in a pool of piranhas, and we’ve got to throw them a lifeline,” Atwater said.

But Atwater, Scott and several lawmakers attending Tuesday’s call for change acknowledged that there was no clear path to overhauling the PIP system. 

Insurers, the hospital industry, lawyers and health care providers  were gathered into a working group last month under state insurance consumer advocate Robin Westcott, but failed to agree on recommendations.

“They’re all fighting for their part,” Atwater said.

Now, it’s legislators’ turn.

“It’s going to be a challenging bill to get passed,” acknowledged Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, an insurance agent, who doubles as chairman of the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.

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