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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Legislators trying again to put brakes on auto insurance fraud



Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Ft. Lauderdale, and Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Manatee, today rolled out proposals aimed at curbing staged auto accidents that they say are costing the state billions of dollars in fraudulent insurance payouts.

Florida holds the distinction misfortune of being one of the leading states in the country for staged auto accidents. Scammers are abusing the state-mandated no-fault insurance, called Personal Injury Protection or PIP. The $10,000 coverage pays for accident injuries to a driver and passengers regardless of who is at fault and costs the average driver $100 to $200 a year.

Among other things, SB 1930 and HB 1411 would increase penalties for medical providers who participate in auto accident fraud, require law enforcement to conduct a more thorough investigation of an auto accident and give insurance companies more time to investigate suspicious claims. PIP, you may recall, was a big issue in the 2007 legislative session, when then House Speaker Marco Rubio said he would let the mandatory insurance coverage expire unless moire anti-fraud measures were enacted.

Ultimately Rubio bended after a compromise PIP-fraud bill passed that limited prices some medical facilities and doctors can charge insurers for nonemergency care and required that PIP clinics be owned or overseen by licensed doctors.

But it did little to solve the problem.

The Division of Insurance Fraud received more than 5,500 complaints of PIP fraud during fiscal year 2009-2010, more than 40 percent of all fraud complaints. Investigators made 337 arrests that resulted in 240 convictions. In 2006-2007, the final full year before the first series of reforms, the state received 3,600 complaints of PIP fraud, made 316 arrests and received 204 convictions.

Bogdanoff, who helped craft the 2007 PIP legislation, admitted Wednesday in a press conference with Boyd and state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater that the reforms didn't go far enough.

"Fraud is a tax on every honest individual in this state that is just trying to make ends meet," Atwater said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 2:04pm]


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