The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration recently issued a three-page memorandum that was designed to eliminate a flaw in House Bill 119, the state’s new personal injury protection (PIP) law that was signed by the Governor in early May. As written, the law created a six-month eligibility gap beginning July 1st for health care providers such as doctors, dentists, and chiropractors. Although eligibility would have automatically been restored on January 1, 2013, insurance companies could arguably have refused to pay health care professionals who treated accident victims as part of the PIP insurance program in the interim.
PIP insurance was adopted in Florida in 1972. During the recent legislative session, Governor Rick Scott lobbied for changes to the law which requires Florida vehicle owners to carry $10,000 in mandatory no-fault accident injury insurance. Proponents of the new law say the changes are aimed at combating staged accident fraud. The law now includes tightened restrictions regarding who constitutes a medical provider, requires the name of all passengers involved in an accident to be noted by police officers, and creates a 14-day medical treatment window following an accident. Insurers are also required to lower the cost of premiums so long as certain specified criteria are met.
Critics of the new law believe it does more for insurance companies than consumers. Bill Newton, Executive Director at the Consumer Action Network, said recent changes to the PIP law will result in more limited services without the benefit of lowered insurance premiums. He also stated the law has shifted the burden of injury accidents onto the victims.
It is currently unclear whether the Agency’s memo is sufficient to eliminate the purported eligibility gap. According to Mark Seidenfeld, a Florida State University administrative law expert, the document may be useful to influence a court regarding the intent of the law, but whether it would have an actual impact on a court’s decision following a challenge is not apparent. Seidenfeld believes it is only a matter of time before someone challenges the state’s new PIP law based on either the eligibility gap or the constitutionality of the measure.
If you were hurt in an auto collision, it is a good idea to consult with a skilled Florida car accident lawyer as soon as possible. You may be eligible to receive compensation for medical bills, suffering, pain, disability, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and loss of enjoyment of life. A knowledgeable car accident attorney can explain your options and help you preserve your rights under Florida law.
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