Over the objections of Florida insurance companies, the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee on Monday voted 15-3 to pass a bill that would eliminate Florida’s long-standing no-fault insurance program and requirement to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP).
Before the vote HB 1525 bill sponsor Rep. Erin Grail called out the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) for its decision last year to commission a report on the fiscal impact of a near identical bill from 2021 bill that eliminated PIP. The Pinnacle report was released by the OIR before Gov Ron DeSantis vetoed the bill.
Sen. Jeff Brandes said last week it would be “legislative malpractice” to consider near identical legislation and not have any additional information on the fiscal impact.
“This is what I would say where there is malpractice. I think there was agency malpractice. To commission a report on draft legislation to accept that report even though the report did not address the components of the bill that was passed, to hold that report until after we left for session and to present it without the ability to respond to it is malpractice ,” Grall said. “And every single one of us should be upset that an agency would have motivations to kill the policy that we work on.”
She also blasted Pinnacle for putting together a report that misstated facts that she said are easily accessible, such as the percentage of uninsured drivers, saying it was equivalent to actual malpractice.
Grall said it would be “legislative malpractice” to create policy based on talking points from an industry that “wants to protect the profits they seek to lose with this reform.”
Grall also tried to redirect the debate from the number of Florida drivers who could see their rates increase under Grall’s 2022 bill to the number of drivers whose rates would go down if they weren’t required to carry PIP.
Grall said 6.6% of the drivers on the road today have the basic coverage requirements that are less than what Grall’s bill would require. Their rates are most likely going to increase under the bill. But Grall said two thirds of Florida’s insured drivers have coverage that exceeds what her bill requires in addition to carrying PIP coverage. Eliminating PIP would reduce rates for those drivers.
“Why aren’t we talking about the number of our constituents that will experience a decrease as we move away from a system that is riddled with fraud?” she asked.
The PIP debates have been some of the most acrimonious in the Florida Legislature. It has been described as a circus atmosphere by some lobbyists.
PIP covers the policyholder’s medical expenses regardless of who caused the accident. Drivers injured in car accidents who require emergency medical care have $10,000 in coverage. Otherwise, PIP provides $2,500 in medical coverage.
Grall’s bill eliminates the no-fault system and requirement that drivers carry $10,000 in PIP coverage. Grall’s bill would return Florida to a fault-based system and would require Florida drivers to carry bodily injury coverage with a $25,000 limit for one person’s bodily injury or death and $50,000 for the bodily injury or death of two or more people.
Insurance companies also would be mandated to offer policyholders the option to purchase a so-called “MedPay” plan for health care costs. Insurance carriers would be required to offer a zero deductible Med Pay policy with limits of $5,000 or $10,000.
Unlike the bill that DeSantis vetoed last year, the House bill would require drivers to opt in to the MedPay program.
Many of the insurance companies that tested Monday said the state should not eliminate PIP with reforming the state’s bad faith laws. While the 2021 bill DeSantis vetoed contained bad faith reforms and was deemed compromise language, insurers don’t think it goes far enough. But Grall doesn’t appear to have an appetite to include bad faith changes in her bill.
Sen. Danny Burgesssponsor of SB 150the Senate companion bill, does include the bad faith language from the 2021 bill.
Brent Steinberga lawyer with the group Taxpayers Against Insurers Bad Faith, told committee members that insurance companies don’t have to worry about bad faith claims if they do what’s in the best interest of their policyholders.
“I’m here to oppose any effort to weaken (the bad faith law), he said adding insurers will never be happy” until they are given complete immunity.”