This year our legislature passed a comprehensive P.I.P. reform package designed to slash your car insurance rates. One problem: they never actually required insurers to reduce rates. Instead there’s only a suggestion that insurers rollback rates or send an “excuse” note to the Insurance Commissioner explaining why rates aren’t dropping. That’s it. As you can guess, car insurers are already whipping out their post-it pads and penning their justifications to the Commissioner for new rate hikes.
So what did we consumers get from this reform designed to put money back in our pockets? In short, we got less coverage for likely more money. For example, P.I.P. insurers will now only offer $2,500 in benefits (down from $10,000) except for serious “emergency medical conditions.” Massage and acupuncture will no longer be available and there will be zero benefits unless you see a qualified physician within 14 days of the accident. For patients who do timely seek care, insurers will no longer cover injuries that were not diagnosed in the initial exam or that were omitted in the ER/initial records. Your treating doctors and hospitals can also expect lower reimbursements based on new fee schedules (a 25% – 35% cut in most cases) and watch for slower payments based on provisions allowing the insurer 60 more days to investigate your claim for fraud. Finally, if you thought your P.I.P. claim was going to be quick and painless – think again. Your P.I.P. insurer may now force you to present yourself to their lawyers for an examination under oath (essentially a deposition) before deciding whether to pay your claim and make you file a lawsuit if you want documentation verifying why your claim isn’t being paid. Not to worry, the “note” explaining why they still can’t cut our rates is surely in the mail.
Russel Lazega is an attorney and author of the most widely distributed legal textbook on Florida automobile insurance (P.I.P.) law, West’s Florida Practice Series Volume 7. Mr. Lazega represents over 400 medical providers, including 10 Florida hospitals, and is based in Dania Beach, Orlando and Tampa, Florida. Contact: Lazegalaw.com
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