Florida is one of only 10 states in the nation to have personal injury protection (PIP) as part of its auto insurance coverage. Designed to give injured motorists and passengers up to $10,000 in immediate funds, rather than forcing them to establish liability through the court system, PIP coverage is mandated for all Floridians purchasing auto insurance. This is a no-fault system that makes individuals responsible for their own injuries regardless of who may have caused the accident.
In recent years, legislators have sought to remove PIP coverage, claiming the rate of PIP claims and payments have skyrocketed—even as the number of accidents remains relatively constant. Opponents of PIP also cited a 2016 Florida Office of Insurance Regulation study that says auto insurance rates would go down if Florida shifts to a system of bodily injury liability. Since Floridians currently have some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country, averaging $2,364 for full coverage and $1,101 for minimum coverage, this argument was designed to sway public opinion.
The most recent challenge to PIP was Senate Bill 54, which would have replaced PIP coverage with mandatory bodily injury coverage and mandated MedPay coverage to a limit of at least $5,000. The bill also increased coverage amounts for commercial motor vehicle insurance and garage liability. SB 54 passed the Florida State Legislature despite almost 37,000 letters from Floridians concerned that their auto insurance rates would dramatically increase—not decrease—under the new system.
Florida PIP Bill Vetoed
On June 29, 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed Senate Bill 54. After giving no indication about how he would react to the bill, DeSantis succumbed to pressure from constituents and watch groups like the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA). Their influential report claimed that ending PIP coverage would leave Florida drivers with auto insurance rates significantly higher than they’re currently paying—an increase of $165 to $876 per year for drivers with minimum coverage.
Why It Was Vetoed
DeSantis’s veto letter states: “While the PIP system has flaws and Florida law regarding bad faith is deficient, [SB 54] does not adequately address the current issues facing Florida drivers and may have unintended consequences that would negatively impact both the market and consumers.”
Because rates would have increased with the change from PIP to mandatory bodily injury coverage, one of these “unintended consequences” is that some drivers would have opted to forego auto insurance coverage altogether. Florida has a high rate of uninsured drivers—approximately one in eight—that already translates into higher premiums for drivers who comply.
SB 54 would likely have compounded this problem. Moreover, an increase in uninsured drivers would have placed a significant burden on Florida’s healthcare system, leaving medical providers with little recourse to recover damages. Considering that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain hospitals and emergency services would only exacerbate this problem.
If the Bill Had Passed, Uninsured Drivers in Florida May Have Increased
It’s hard to know exactly how many more uninsured drivers there would have been had SB 54 become law. Because Florida has such a high rate of uninsured drivers already; it’s reasonable to assume that any increase in insurance premiums would impose a financial hardship on some individuals, causing them to drop coverage. This would indeed have “unintended consequences,” particularly for medical providers in the state of Florida.
Increased Uninsured Drivers Would Mean More Medical Bills Go Unpaid
Under Florida’s no-fault system, the burden falls on insurance companies to pay out claims when motorists and passengers are injured in an accident. In fact, medical providers may submit payment claims directly to the injured party’s insurer.
PIP coverage has an important advantage over liability insurance: It takes into consideration the fact that some individuals won’t be able to pay the damages in full even if a successful claim is brought against them. The mandated $10,000 in PIP insurance, on the other hand, pays 80% of medical bills after applicable deductibles. This ensures medical providers recover damages quickly. Switching from no-fault to liability coverage would mean, at best, a long wait time for payment. At worst, it would mean medical providers don’t get paid at all.
Increased Uninsured Drivers Would Cause Counties to Continue Writing off Unpaid EMS Bills
For years now, Florida’s counties have been writing off millions of dollars in unpaid EMS bills—even with the no-fault system in place. This happens because Floridians—2.8 million of whom have no health insurance—simply cannot pay the cost of being transported to the hospital in an ambulance. Here are some figures:
- In 2019, Pasco County wrote off $67 million dollars in bad debt from unpaid ambulance rides dating back to the 1970s.
- Also in 2019, Escambia County wrote off $5.9 million in unpaid fees to the local EMS for accounts dating back to 2005. The county writes off about $2 million in unpaid fees to its ambulance service each year.
- In 2016, Brevard County wrote off $6.8 million in unpaid fees for ambulance transportation.
Compounding this problem is the fact that government insurance providers, such as Medicaid, don’t cover the full cost of an ambulance ride; outstanding balances that will never be paid must instead be discharged as bad debt. If the state scraps PIP coverage in favor of mandatory bodily injury insurance, and particularly if this move leads to higher auto insurance premiums, one can expect the number of unpaid fees to increase dramatically.
Have You Been Denied a PIP Claim?
If you’re a doctor, emergency medical service provider, or other medical professional and you’ve been denied a PIP insurance claim, you need to speak to a PIP attorney who has experience dealing with these cases. GED Lawyers specializes in recovering damages for medical providers who have been denied PIP insurance claims, and our proprietary system allows clients to track the status of cases with a refreshing degree of transparency. We are just a phone call away at 561-995-1966 or toll-free at 844-443-3529. Contact us for your free case review today.