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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate sends its own PIP proposal back to House

7

March

UPDATE: Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said she voted against the PIP legislation in error and later submitted paperwork to change her vote to a "yes," meaning HB 119 passed the Senate unanimously. END UPDATE.

The Senate passed its version of PIP reform with a near unanimous vote and no debate, a big contrast to the contentious PIP discussions on Tuesday.

Now, the legislation goes back to the House, which has already approved a much different plan to alter the no-fault auto insurance system. Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said House members will first focus on understanding exactly what senators approved before deciding what they do and don’t support.

"I don’t know exactly what’s in their bill and I don’t know that they all do because of all the back and forth,” said Boyd, who is the House’s point person on PIP. “But we need to evaluate what’s in their bill, fully understand it, and then make our decisions about are there provisions we can live with, are their provisions that we can’t.”

The Senate inserted its own language into HB 119 before approving the measure 39-1. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, was the only “no” vote, but we don’t yet know why because there was no debate.

The two chambers are still far apart on how to reduce fraud and lower PIP costs.

For example, the House version caps attorney fees and prohibits judges from awarding fee multipliers in complex cases. The Senate’s proposal does neither.

Under the House plan, people injured in a car accident must seek treatment within seven days; the Senate’s version gives a two-week window.

The Senate allows chiropractors to perform initial evaluations and follow-up treatments under PIP. The House’s proposal doesn’t include chiropractors at all, but Boyd said the chamber is open to allowing patients to be referred to chiropractors for follow-up care.

Both chambers did agree to remove massage therapy and acupuncture from PIP.

Boyd said the House’s focus is on driving down costs by ending over-utilization of services and reducing litigation. The Senate says it has the same goal in mind, but its main focus is reigning in medical clinics and reducing fraud.

Now that a version of PIP reform has been approved in both chambers, the two sides will negotiate back and forth with amendments in hopes of reaching an agreement by Friday when the regular session is scheduled to end.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in a short period of time,” Boyd said. “But I’m committed to doing that work because I’m committed to driving automobile insurance costs down for Floridians and I trust Sen. Negron is as well. He’s been a good partner.”

Reforming PIP is a top priority of Gov. Rick Scott, who has been meeting with legislators behind the scenes to push for action. He has favored the House’s version, mainly because of the limits on attorney fees.

If the House and Senate can’t reach an agreement, the governor could call legislators back for a special session on PIP. House Speaker Dean Cannon says he doesn’t want that to happen, but Senate President Mike Haridopolos said he is open to the idea.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 4:11pm]

    

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