The House is expected to vote this week on a bill to repeal Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system, but a pending amendment to the bill could force it back to the Senate, creating a tight timeline for the measure to pass.
The Senate, in an overwhelming vote, approved its version of the no-fault repeal (SB 54). The bill, carried by Zephyrhills Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, would see the state eliminate the current requirement that drivers carry $10,000 in personal injury protection coverage and instead require they carry mandatory bodily injury coverage that would pay out up to $25,000 for a crash-related injury or death, or $50,000 for multiple injuries or deaths.
Opponents say an MBI system would send premiums through the roof for drivers who carry insurance policies below the $25,000/$50,000 limits in the repeal bill. Additionally, critics point to the slow reimbursements inherent in an MBI system, which could leave drivers and health care providers on the hook while a case works its way through the court.
Since no-fault insurance pays no matter who is responsible for an accident, health care providers generally get paid quickly for treating auto accident injuries. But MBI holds back payment until a fault determination is made.
To address the shortcoming, Senators tacked on a requirement that drivers also purchase $5,000 in medical payments insurance, or “med-pay,” to cover bills that need to be paid quickly.
Before the amendment, the bill would have required insurers to offer the coverage but would have given drivers the option of whether or not to purchase it.
The amendment raised concerns on the Senate floor, with St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes saying it was irresponsible to make such a substantive change to the legislation without so much as a staff analysis outlining the potential impact it could have on insurance premiums.
“You can’t go home and look your constituents in the eye and say this is going to lower your rates for your poorest constituents. It may raise their rates 15, 20, 70%. We don’t know. And that isn’t right,” he said.
Though Brandes was the only Senator to vote against the overall bill, others were wary of the change.
On Friday, the House moved the no-fault repeal forward, positioning it for a final vote. However, the chamber accepted an amendment from Rep. Erin Grall, the House no-fault repeal sponsor, to strip out the med-pay coverage requirement and insert a provision to give drivers an “opt out” choice on $5,000 to $10,000 in med-pay coverage.
The bill otherwise remains the same, and according to insurers would vastly raise rates for low-income motorists.
The American Property and Casualty Insurance Association has warned for weeks that a no-fault repeal would greatly affect the 40% of motorists that carry insurance with minimums below the 25/50 threshold in the bill. Their estimate predicts those drivers could see their auto insurance costs rise by $165 to $876 a year.
Others predict even bigger spikes.
Don Moser, president of Amwins Specialty Auto of Florida, said the no-fault repeal will result in substantial cost increases for drivers in the “non-standard” market who do not currently purchase bodily injury coverage.
He explained, “This will be most pronounced in the segment of our population with limited income, including a disproportionate impact on minorities. The increased costs come from roughly 80% of the people in the ‘non-standard’ market who currently do not purchase bodily injury coverage due to cost and/or need. Making these people buy 25/50 bodily injury limits will add $600 to $1,000 per year to the costs for these people.”
Moser also took aim at med-pay, whether required or optional, saying it that the lack of a Medicare fee schedule to prevent excessive billing practices could lead to high levels of fraud — something lawmakers contend is already a major problem with PIP, though there is little evidence to bear that out.
If the House passes the amended bill, it would head back to the Senate. If the upper chamber concurs with the med-pay-less system switch, the bill would head to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Gov. Ron DeSantis so far hasn’t indicated whether he will sign the bill, though Brandes said on the Senate floor that the Governor wasn’t opposed to the measure. CFO Jimmy Patronis, however, has said he opposes the change and believes it will raise rates.
“I grew up in a service industry, I had employees that work from month to month, and if you increase their insurance rates by $15 or $18 a month, that’s real money to somebody’s pocket,” he said.
April 26, 2021 at 6:51 am
First off, the issue of “No Fault” verses “At Fault” insurance has nothing to do with advancing “personnel responsibility” and giving the consumer “the right” to “opt out” of insurance that the consumer thinks is unnecessary. It is about generating more revenue for lawyers mandating a “Full Tort” adversarial process rather than the “Limited Tort” process of No Fault. No Fault is dominant because it is simpler to work with for all parties, more efficient and less costly. Focusing on “minimums” is just gaslighting. Numbers like $10,000 or $25,000 can easily be eclipsed by one visit to an E. R. Insurance provides no meaningful financial safety unless it spans well into six figures and includes the same coverage for Under and Uninsured. And remember your “personal” health insurance does not cover auto or work related injuries. So if you are at fault, under the proposed change you will have no coverage for your own injuries if you chose to “opt out” of the now optional personal injury coverage. Again, this is not an issue of “personal responsibility” with your decision only impacting you. With no insurance for a severe injury, you might not be able to meet the mortgage, now the entire family is out on the street, or maybe the kids will only have to drop out of college for a year. Even if you don’t have “family”, you’re injury can still adversely effects others when you you can’t do your job.
There is a website which makes it very easy to notify your elected representatives. Google securing our future dot com.
April 26, 2021 at 10:15 am
Since when was driving a car a constitutional right? If you can’t afford to have some level of insurance protecting the people YOU hurt when operating a 2,000 pound machine upwards of 65MPH then you shouldn’t be driving a car. It is that simple, you hurt someone you pay.
Anyone who has ever been hit or had a loved one hit by some irresponsible driver carrying minimal insurance understands this frustration. Florida has 3 of the 25 most dangerous highways in America yet drivers aren’t required to have insurance protecting others.
“So if you are at fault, under the proposed change you will have no coverage for your own injuries if you chose to “opt out” of the now optional personal injury coverage.” If they choose to opt out of that AND Uninsured motorist coverage that is on them, at least the people they hurt are covered.
This faced the insurance companies are putting up is more about retaining the status quo than looking out for anyone else. These ar the same organizations which spend Billions on advertising because they know the value of each policyholder, but they have no incentive to do anything but find ways to deny claims or minimize payments in order to maximize shareholder profit. It really isn’t their fault, it’s the way the system is set up.
Also the carriers could wipe out lawyers if they simply paid fairly on claims from the start. Then no one would hire a lawyer.
April 26, 2021 at 10:18 am
I’m tired of having to pay high premiums because others aren’t responsible enough to carry decent insurance. I’m 100% behind this change. It amazes me that in 2021 people are arguing against carrying $25,000 in bodily injury insurance. Uninsured/Underinsured rates are extremely high because of this. The people that will see insurance premiums go up are the ones too irresponsible to carry even minimal insurance. PIP only covers your own medical bills. If you’re on the road you need to carry coverage that covers “liability” in the event that you are the at-fault driver in an accident.
I actually think the bodily injury and property damage minimums should be higher. What does $25,000 really cover? An ambulance ride and visit to the ER is easily $10,000 even if they don’t do anything. Broken arm? You’re already getting close to $25,000 right there.
It’s time for Florida drivers to be responsible and purchase liability insurance like most of the other states.
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