Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Politics

Ruling all but ends Hillsborough law targeting PIP fraud

TAMPA — An appellate court has effectively ended Hillsborough County's attempt to regulate clinics that law enforcement officials say enabled a proliferation of staged auto accidents.

The Second District Court of Appeal has upheld without comment a temporary injunction against county enforcement of the ordinance after a lower court ruled in part that regulation of clinics is the state's responsibility.

One of the requirements in granting an injunction is a finding that the clinics that challenged the 2011 ordinance had a substantial likelihood of prevailing.

"Obviously, we're disappointed with the decision," said Rob Brazel, chief assistant county attorney for litigation. "We've got to determine whether or not there is something we can amend in the ordinance to make it enforceable."

Democratic Commissioner Kevin Beckner, working with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, pushed the local law. It required that operators of certain health-care clinics obtain a county license, offer proof that they are associated with a medical doctor, don't employ convicted felons in any positions and submit to random inspections.

Law enforcement and some insurers argued that some clinics were helping with staged auto accidents by issuing bogus medical diagnoses and prescribing unnecessary treatment for people who participated in them. Florida law requires auto drivers to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection, or PIP insurance, and claims were often filed against those policies.

At one point, Beckner contended that Hillsborough County led a state that was among the tops in the nation for staged auto accidents, and that was costing all motorists higher insurance premiums. Gov. Rick Scott, who has also attacked the problem, singled out Beckner's initiative for praise on a visit to Hillsborough County.

Beckner said Monday the county would continue to evaluate its legal options in the wake of the appellate court's ruling.

Meanwhile, he said, the fight will continue.

"We will use every tool and law available to us to aggressively crack down on perpetrators of insurance fraud,'' Beckner said.

The nearly 30 clinics that challenged the law said it was overly broad and impinged on the regulatory responsibilities of the state. They said it had an arbitrary and subjective process for people challenging the denial of a license, subjected them to unlawful searches from a broad array of law enforcement and included other requirements that made it all but impossible for otherwise legal clinics to operate.

"None of my clients are in favor of fraud," said Luke Lirot, an attorney for the clinics who challenged the ordinance. "They certainly wish that people involved in this line of work would refrain from any conduct of that nature.

"This was just the wrong mechanism to achieve that governmental purpose and imposed very harsh restrictions on every clinic regardless of whether or not there were any suspicions that they were involved in fraud."

About 70 clinics had been approved for licenses under the Hillsborough ordinance, which exempted medical providers whose businesses don't rely on crashes or that carry some other forms of accreditation. Enforcement of the ordinance has been on hold since the lower court ruling late last year.

Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.

Comments
VA nominee considers withdrawing as new allegations emerge of drinking, wrecking government vehicle

VA nominee considers withdrawing as new allegations emerge of drinking, wrecking government vehicle

WASHINGTON — White House physician Ronny Jackson has grown frustrated with the nomination process to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs and has told colleagues he may remove his name from consideration, two White House officials with knowledge o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sessions defends Trump pardons of Joe Arpaio, Scooter Libby

Sessions defends Trump pardons of Joe Arpaio, Scooter Libby

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday defended President Donald Trump’s right to pardon former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Bush administration official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Both pardons were issued by Trump and bypassed the ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Seniors support ‘grandchildren’ with gun-control rally in Sun City Center

Seniors support ‘grandchildren’ with gun-control rally in Sun City Center

SUN CITY CENTER — Millions of women marched on Washington. Thousands of teenagers rallied in Tallahassee and Tampa Bay.And in Sun City Center, nearly 150 seniors held a demonstration for gun control on April 21, offering a simple but poignant message...
Published: 04/25/18

Sean Hannity, a Trump defender, under scrutiny for real estate deals

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)ATLANTA — On his Fox News program last summer, Sean Hannity effused praise for his guest, U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson. "I know you have done a good job," Hannity said. "You are a good man."Carson’s presence gav...
Published: 04/23/18
Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

With the third largest Cuban American population, Cuba’s culture is celebrated throughout the Tampa Bay area and in a diversity of ways.Flags hang in homes, fashion is worn, music performed, food served.But be wary of honoring that heritage by puttin...
Published: 04/23/18
Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

WEST PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn’t expect Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to "flip" as the government investigates Cohen’s business dealings. Trump, in a series of tweets fired from Florida o...
Published: 04/21/18

Vive la France: Trump hosts glitzy White House state dinner

WASHINGTON — Now it’s President Donald Trump’s turn to pull off the ultimate charm offensive. Wined and dined on multiple state visits during his tour of Asia last year, Trump is paying it forward and celebrating nearly 250 years of U.S.-French relat...
Published: 04/21/18
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Scott’s first policy idea as a U.S. Senate candidate won’t happen and most of his fellow Republicans don’t support it.But it’s a surefire applause line at political rallies.Scott wants term limits for members of Congress: 12 ye...
Published: 04/23/18
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18