Lawmakers are poised to kick off debate on what could be one of the most high-profile (and controversial) issues of the 2022 Legislative Session: a repeal of the state’s long-standing personal injury protection (PIP) program.
Though lawmakers voted in 2021 to repeal Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system, it’s back before the Legislature after Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the bill last year. DeSantis argued the move could have unintended consequences that harmed consumers.
Florida has a no-fault automobile insurance system where drivers must carry $10,000 in PIP.
PIP covers the policyholder’s medical expenses regardless of who caused the accident. Drivers injured in car accidents who require emergency medical care have $10,000 in coverage. Otherwise, PIP provides $2,500 in medical coverage.
Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Erin Grall want to replace the no- fault system and mandatory PIP requirements with a fault-based system and mandatory bodily injury coverage. To that end they have filed SB 150 and HB 1525, respectively.
Over the last two decades, PIP debates have been among the most divisive in the Legislature — pitting insurer against insurer, attorney against attorney, and the House against the Senate.
“It’s a circus. This is the biggest stakeholder fight that I’ve ever experienced, both in and out of government, in law practice, and being a lobbyist. It touches on huge stakeholder groups,” said Michael Carlson, president and CEO of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida.
Automobile insurance touches everyone, he added, from property insurers and health insurance companies to trial attorneys, doctors and hospitals.
Under the House and Senate bills, Florida drivers would be required to carry bodily injury coverage with a $25,000 limit for one person’s bodily injury or death and $50,000 for the bodily injury or death of two or more people. Insurance companies also would be mandated to offer policyholders the option to purchase a so-called “MedPay” plan for health care costs. Insurance carriers would be required to offer a zero deductible MedPay policies with limits of $5,000 or $10,000.
The bills are similar to the bill the governor vetoed last year but with some twists.
Under the 2021 bill, drivers would have had to proactively opt-out of the MedPay coverage. This year, the bills require drivers to proactively choose MedPay coverage.
That change, Burgess said, will blunt the findings of a Pinnacle analysis of the 2021 bill showing it would have resulted in an average $202 increase in premiums for Florida drivers. Increases would have been even higher for people currently paying for minimum coverage.
Burgess said in reaching its conclusion, Pinnacle erroneously assumed every driver would carry the $10,000 optional MedPay coverage.
“I think that on its face addresses the finding in the Pinnacle report,” Burgess told Florida Politics.
The switch, however, worries some health care providers. Emergency room physicians — who often treat drivers injured in car accidents — prefer the opt-out requirement in the 2021 bill.
Federal and state law requires hospitals to stabilize every patient coming to the emergency department regardless of ability to pay.
Toni Large, a lobbyist for the Florida College of Emergency Physicians, said her clients remain concerned about the effect of the potential change.
“You never want to take a payment away from an emergency room,” Large noted. Without some kind of mandated payment, she said, there are no assurances that providers will be timely paid. That matters in a state like Florida, which did not expand Medicaid and has a large uninsured population.
Physicians aren’t the only ones with concerns with the bill, though.
Lobbyist Doug Bell, who represents Progressive Insurance, said the change regarding MedPay coverage auto insurance premiums will increase for 45% of Floridians who currently carry less coverage than what the Burgess bill requires.
“The likelihood is they cannot afford higher premiums, and they likely would go into the uninsured market,” said Bell. “Florida already has one in five uninsured drivers on the road.”
But Grall takes issue with numbers used by Bell and other insurance lobbyists.
“It’s like Whac-A-Mole when you get into the actual math,” Grall told Florida Politics Tuesday.
In the interim between the veto and the 2022 Legislative Session, Grall continued to delve into the issue. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has noted that between 6 and 7% of Florida drivers are entirely uninsured, she said.
The 22% figure, Grall declared, reflects the number of drivers that carry just PIP and therefore wouldn’t meet the mandated coverage requirements contained in both the Senate and House bills.
Grall believes eliminating PIP would help reduce the number of uninsured drivers on Florida’s highways and roads.
“It would be a step in getting there,” she said, “because the cost of PIP is continuing to go through the roof.”
Indeed, Grall pointed to data indicating that 66% of the state’s drivers meet the mandatory BI coverage in the bill and the $10,000 PIP requirement.
“To me, logic dictates if you take away PIP for 66%, it goes down.”
Grall, who was named the chair of the House Judiciary Committee last year, has pushed to repeal PIP since first getting elected. With the support of Senate Presiden tWilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls. Working with Burgess Grall successfully shepherded the bill through the process only to see it get vetoed.
“While the PIP system has flaws and Florida law regarding bad faith is deficient … SB 54 does not adequately address the current issues facing Florida drivers and may have unintended consequences that would negatively impact both the market and consumers,” DeSantis wrote in his veto letter last year.
But Grall isn’t dissuaded.
The question is whether DeSantis — now running for re-election — will sign off on this year’s effort.
Grall’s goal is to “engage with the Governor as the policy moves along,” with hopes of convincing him to sign the repeal into law.
To that end, Grall excluded from her 2022 bill the bad faith provisions that were included in the 2021 proposal. Burr
Grall has maintained over the years the PIP repeal should not be tied to bad faith reforms. But she agreed to put compromise bad faith language in the 2021 bill to get it passed.
But she didn’t include the bad faith language in her bill this year.
“In conversations with his office,” Grall said, “I was told it was not something he needed.”
February 2, 2022 at 12:46 pm
PIP repeal and mandatory BI mandates are being forced down our throats by the “woke” libs in the FJA, blue-state refugees, millionaire left wing trial lawyers, and Erin Grall & Danny Burgess. They are nothing but spineless RINOs forcing California style auto insurance on every Floridian.
Do not be fooled, folks. There is no data to support proponents’ arguments that the bill as proposed will reduce insurance rates. Experts and commissioned studies instead point to massive rate increases for millions of working-class and low income minority drivers who buy PIP only policies. The rich, who purchase high limit BI policies for their luxury German sedans, are estimated to save big bucks from this proposed bill.
In turn, massive auto insurance premium increases will lead to more working-class Floridians not buying auto insurance at all. They’ll risk it, instead of paying for much more expensive MBI auto insurance, they’ll be forced to buy food for their families or pay rent to keep a roof over their children’s head.
This is quintessential reverse Robinhood. Stealing from the working poor and giving it to the wealthy elite lawyers. Driving with insurance shouldn’t be a luxury in Florida.
February 11, 2022 at 1:17 pm
You sound like a leftist fearmongering that if abortions are taken away that millions of women will die from back-alley abortions every year. It is awful you are afraid of Floridians saving money, and are more concerned with providing people with inadequate auto insurance.
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