A Florida House Democrat urged Gov. Rick Scott on Monday to fix a glitch in a much-touted overhaul of the state’s mandatory auto insurance requirement, which some critics say threatens payments to a wide range of health care providers.
Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, said he wanted to hear how the Republican governor planned to address errors that he said could have a significant effect on Floridians and businesses. The new law goes into effect July 1.
“While your intent in advocating for the passage of this bill was to combat auto fraud, the errors contained in this bill are of such significance that failure to fix them prior to implementation of the legislation will invite litigation,” Kriseman told Scott. “I am sure you recognize that the lack of clarity under which insurance carriers and medical providers will attempt to operate is bound to create needless new chaos and costs.”
Scott toured the state earlier this month promoting the legislation (HB 119) that he said will reduce accident fraud and high insurance premiums which have plagued Florida’s mandatory, no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
The PIP bill, a top Scott priority, was hastily cobbled together in the waning hours of the legislative session. But the measure includes a glitch — conflicting language that raises questions of whether insurers could be considered exempt from paying claims between July 1 and Jan. 1, 2013 to hospitals, chiropractors, dentists, doctors and others.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has sought to resolve the new law’s problems by issuing a memo saying that it considers all providers still eligible to receive insurance payments. Changes to eligibility outlined in the law would not take effect until Jan. 1, according to AHCA’s memo.
In the memo, AHCA’s general counsel, Stuart Williams, acknowledged the conflict “would place the agency in a conundrum.” But he concluded, the “agency believes that the (law) applies the same effective date of January 1, 2013 to both the new licensure requirement and the…exemption.”
But given that Scott and other advocates for changing PIP said the current system was marked by wholesale fraud and overcharges, some experts have questioned whether AHCA’s memo will be enough to keep the legislation out of court.
Kriseman, who was among 30 House Democrats voting against the legislation, said he also has been hearing from constituents who are being charged more for auto insurance since the PIP bill passed. Lawmakers lifted a mandatory rate reduction from the legislation as a concession to insurance companies who promised lower premiums once the PIP changes went into effect.
“Unfortunately, it does not appear that these insurance companies are living up to their assurances,” Kriseman said.