No renewal of no-fault before Oct. 1
As Florida's no-fault insurance law ends its three-decade run Oct. 1, the state's highly competitive automobile insurance market may be ready to enjoy a new dawn -- or enter a new Dark Ages, depending on who you talk to.Hospitals fear being stuck with unpaid emergency room bills. Insurance agents are puzzling over what to advise their clients -- no-fault protection won't go away all at once but rather as policies come for renewal in the coming months. And consumers are often confused that the only plan for the future seems to be allowing no-fault to sunset and letting the chips fall as they may.
The only consensus among lawmakers and various business interests is that the current law invites fraud. There's no agreement on any kind of solution.The Legislature is now supposed to meet for a budget-cutting session Oct. 3, rather than Sept. 18 as originally projected. Many lawmakers anticipated a last-minute effort to extend or even reform no-fault during the earlier date.Now that the target is Oct. 3, it's certain that no-fault will expire -- and there's no word on whether the special session order that should be published this week will contain any agenda item other than the budget.
It's a PIP
The centerpiece of no-fault is its mandatory $10,000 personal injury protection coverage, which pays 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages plus miscellaneous household expenses that might be caused by an accident -- for example, hiring cleaning or yard service while convalescing.
PIP has been effective in providing quick settlements of legitimate medical expenses, especially emergency room bills.But it's also spawned many outpatient "PIP clinics," mainly in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. These medical facilities are noted less for the effectiveness of the treatments they provide than for the speed with which they can file claims totaling $10,000."Our no-fault system was by no means perfect. You are never going to come up with a perfect system as long as there are people out there looking to play the system and defraud the system," said Jim Nolan, president of Nolan Family Insurance. "It drives auto insurance costs for every consumer up by hundreds of dollars every year.
"The ripple effects from this are going to be heard for years to come," he said.