May 07, 2012 at 6:34 pm
A South Florida doctor has given an ominous warning after Governor Rick Scott signed legislation that reforms personal injury protection insurance: the state’s health care system will face new burdens as insurance companies profit at the expense of Florida residents.
“The public has no clue,” said Dr. Bill Rice, a West Palm Beach chiropractor and acupuncturist. ”They’re not going to get the care they need which is going to cause chronic problems [and] chronic illness.”
Under the changes that begin in July, Florida drivers will still be required to carry $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection insurance, or PIP; however, drivers injured in an accident will have 14 days to see a doctor.
Unless they have an emergency condition — Rice and some critics said what an emergency condition was was still undefined — PIP insurance coverage would be capped at $2,500.
Acupuncture and massage therapy services would no longer be covered.
Scott, who signed the bill during a ceremony in West Palm Beach, said the reforms would cut fraud and lower the cost of living.
“We want to make sure people get paid timely and fairly but we can’t have people take advantage of the system,” Scott said. “That’s what was happening.”
In 2010, Florida insurers paid a staggering $2.5 billion in PIP claims as auto insurance premiums, according to Scott, spiked 80% in South Florida.
Under the change, insurers were asked to lower auto insurance premiums by 10% in October and by 25% in 2014 unless they justified to the State of Florida why they couldn’t be lowered.
Rice, who opened his practice in 1977, said fewer people would receive care because not everyone felt pain immediately after an auto accident.
“It’s going to come out of their regular health insurance or out of their pockets or they’re not going to get the care they need because they can’t afford it,” he said. “The insurance companies are going to make out like bandits here. You’re going to be paying for something you’re not going to be able to access.”
Critics cited a recent $100,000 donation to Scott’s Let’s Get To Work political committee as proof the changes were tilted in favor of insurance companies.
Some South Florida attorneys said they intended to challenge the law.