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Fla. House, Senate Close in on Pact to Extend No-Fault Car Insurance

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Florida legislators reached a general agreement to extend the state’s no-fault car insurance law rather than letting it expire as scheduled on Oct. 1, key members of both chambers said.

The requirement that Florida drivers buy personal injury protection insurance – or PIP coverage – has been debated heavily. Critics say the system is so rife with fraud it should be scrapped. The law provides up to $10,000 in coverage for medical bills, regardless of who is at fault in an accident.

But proponents of keeping the requirement say letting it expire will lead to more uninsured people whose hospital care won’t be paid for, leaving medical providers on the hook for that coverage.

Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, the chief negotiator on the issue in the Senate, said lawmakers working on the issue had agreed on language for a bill that would extend the PIP requirement indefinitely, but make revisions to combat fraud.

The main fraud-fighting element in the bill would be a fee schedule for what insurance would pay for various medical procedures, Posey said.

“That’s the prime ingredient for taking the fraud out of PIP,” Posey said.

In the House, Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, has taken the lead on the issue. She didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

But Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, who has also been involved in talks over the plan, confirmed that the House and Senate had worked out a bill for lawmakers to consider before the law expires as scheduled next month.

“We’ve never intended for PIP to sunset,” said Hasner. “We’ve always said that we wanted to make it better for consumers and add protections … and I think we’ve done that with what has emerged.”

House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-Miami, also wants to see the system continue.

Rubio spokeswoman Jill Chamberlin said the speaker was “optimistic that the outcome will be no-fault health insurance for Florida motorists that is pro-consumer and anti-fraud.”

Gov. Charlie Crist said earlier this week that legislators and officials in his office working on the issue had gotten “much closer” to working out a deal, and has said he’d like for an agreement to be completed before the law goes away.

“The governor has been briefed and will take the weekend to consider all of the recommendations that have been agreed upon,” said Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac.

Some of Florida’s largest auto insurers, including State Farm and Allstate, have pushed lawmakers to let the no-fault system expire, and have said that their customers would see lower rates if it does because of a reduction in fraud losses.

A group representing businesses that want PIP to end, Floridians for Lower Insurance Costs, said Friday that it was skeptical of any deal that allows the system to continue. The group said if the system stays, it needs several changes that don’t appear to be part of the deal, such as a limit on attorneys’ fees.

“This proposal doesn’t fix anything, it makes the problems worse and more expensive for drivers,” said Allison North Jones, a spokeswoman for the group.

Lawmakers are already scheduled to return to Tallahassee Oct. 3 through Oct. 12 for a special session in which they must cut more than $1 billion from the state budget. If they want to prevent PIP from expiring, they’d have to return before then.

But so far, there’s no decision to do that yet, and such a decision likely won’t be made until next week, said Kathy Mears, spokeswoman for Senate President Ken Pruitt.


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