Timeline for Florida no-fault insurance reforms
On March 9, the Florida Legislature passed HB 119, which will make changes in the state’s no-fault law. You probably heard a lot about the bill while it was in play and may be interested in knowing where things stand now. Let’s start at the beginning: The bill has not been sent to Gov. Rick Scott yet, and while he’s expected to sign it quickly, you will not see any immediate change because the bill doesn’t take effect until July 1, 2012 and changes associated with ways to get medical treatment for auto accident injuries do not happen until January 1, 2013.
The first thing people want to know is if the changes will help to lower auto insurance rates. And, the truthful answer is…..it depends. It depends on each insurance company’s financial results based on the changes to the no-fault law and on whether or not the reforms go far enough to address the issues that caused rates to rise. It’s a cliché, yet “time will tell.” And, this is the timeline: The bill passed in March, will likely be signed by the governor in April, some changes start in July, and most start in January.
By October 1, the bill requires insurers to submit a rate filing to insurance regulators showing at least a 10 percent reduction in rates – or explain why they cannot. Keep in mind that the changes start July 1, so it’s hard to say if there will be much change realized by the reforms in four months. Regardless, if a downward trend in claims cost occurs, rates will reflect it. By October 2014, auto insurers are required by the reforms to submit another rate reduction of at least 25 percent from 2011 premium levels, so that’s an additional 15 percent from rate filings due this October.
Here’s what doesn’t change: No-fault insurance, also known as personal injury protection (PIP), is still required coverage. It still provides up to $10,000 in medical benefits and continues to pay for 80 percent of medically necessary costs, 60 percent of lost wages and 100 percent of the services that you cannot perform as a result of injuries received in an automobile accident, such as household chores and child care. Claims will continue to be paid within 30 days. However, if the insurance company suspects fraud is involved in the claim, it can take up to 90 days to investigate it, and if the investigation proves it is a valid claim, then it will be paid plus interest.
Here’s what changes in January: Injured drivers and their passengers have 14 days to seek treatment and depending on the severity of the injury, they can receive medical care in two ways:
For medical emergencies, the full $10,000 PIP benefit is available for injured people who seek treatment by ambulance or at a hospital, or from a physician, osteopathic or chiropractic physician, or dentist. Emergency medical treatment can also be provided by a physician assistant or advanced registered nurse practitioner, so that means you can visit your personal doctor if he or she is among these professionals.
For non-emergency treatment, the medical benefit is limited to $2,500, and injured people can visit any medical provider, except a massage therapist or for acupuncture. If follow-up care is needed, a referral is required from a physician, osteopath, chiropractor or dentist.
Here is an overview of the PIP coverage changes with HB 119 with more details.