Monday, December 18, 2017
Business

Gov. Rick Scott signs law to cut down on no-fault car insurance fraud

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed a law aimed at cutting down on an epidemic of car insurance fraud in Florida, fulfilling one of his top goals.

Changes to PIP, or personal injury protection coverage, was one of Scott's three priorities in the 2012 legislative session. He signed HB 119 in Jacksonville, accompanied by law enforcement officials.

"This legislation will benefit the pocketbooks of every Florida family who drives an automobile," Scott said.

Florida's $10,000 PIP benefit has led to widespread abuse, staged car accidents and phony injuries that have sent insurance premiums skyrocketing to a level that many people can no longer afford. The two biggest areas for fraud in the state are Tampa and Miami.

"This is a last-ditch attempt to deal with some form of required insurance to drive in this state. Will it work? I don't have a clue," said Walter Dartland of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, which supported the legislation. "People are clever. There's always going to be someone out to scam the system."

Under the new law, accident victims must be treated within 14 days, starting Jan. 1. Benefits will no longer pay for acupuncture and massage therapy, which state lawmakers decided were not medically necessary.

Most parts of the law take effect July 1, including stricter licensing of medical clinics, more use of long-form crash reports and stiffer penalties for providers who commit fraud. Judges can review attorneys' fees to ensure they are not excessive.

Only people with emergency medical conditions can receive the full $10,000 PIP benefit. Others will be eligible for $2,500 in treatment, which is designed to cut down on the range of treatments victims receive.

Russel Lazega, a Broward County attorney who represents several Tampa Bay area hospitals, said the $2,500 limit is low and unfairly punishes hospitals.

"It's a horrendous piece of legislation that's going to hurt our hospitals," Lazega said.

Scott called PIP fraud a "billion-dollar tax" on Florida motorists. He and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater aggressively pushed for passage of an anti-fraud measure but the bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, almost didn't happen.

It narrowly passed the Senate on a 22-17 vote on the final night of the session, as opponents complained that the bill would unfairly make it harder for injured motorists to receive medical treatment.

PIP reform was one of 36 bills Scott signed into law Friday, as he concluded action on bills passed by the 2012 Legislature.

Another bill Scott signed, SB 268, will allow commercial advertising on seven state-owned trails for the first time, with most revenue used to operate and maintain the trails. They include the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, the Nature Coast State Trail and the Withlacoochee State Trail.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Just in time for one of the busiest travel periods of the year, gas prices across Florida are back down to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels. Tampa Bay gas hit $2.30 per gallon today, while state prices averaged $2.37 per gallon, according to AAA, The Auto...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

ATLANTA — While power has been restored to the world’s busiest airport, the travel woes will linger for days.Thousands of people were stranded Monday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where more than 1,000 flights were gro...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Bitcoin futures begin trading on CME, price little changed

NEW YORK — Another security based on the price of bitcoin, the digital currency that has soared in value and volatility this year, began trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Sunday. The CME Group, which owns the exchange, opened up bitcoin f...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a host and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and they de...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/17/17
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17
Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Shrieks of laughter echoed off the walls of the hospital as Thunder the mini pig flopped onto his side and the children huddled around him, scratching his pink, hairy belly. He and his wet-nosed partner, Bolt, drew patients in wheelchairs and bandage...
Published: 12/15/17
Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

LARGO — Eight months after paying $10.15 million for the office building that houses IT services company Vology, a New York company is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue contending its $5.5 million tax asse...
Published: 12/15/17
Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

In 2010, Florida was in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis. One in every eight homes was in some stage of foreclosure. Today, the foreclosure rate is one in every 83. Because of that enormous drop, Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund will s...
Published: 12/15/17
Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

By ELAINE KURTENBACHTOKYO — Global inequality has stabilized at high levels in recent years, a report said Friday, despite gains among the poor in China and much milder disparities in incomes and wealth in Western Europe. The World Inequality Report ...
Published: 12/15/17
How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

Associated Press NEW YORK — After years of tremors, the earthquake that had long been predicted finally shook Hollywood. Disney’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox ends the era of the "Big Six" major movie studios, toppling one ...
Published: 12/15/17