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Aug 13, 2007

Before you read this, take a look at the editorial cartoon.

It's not by our award-winning cartoonist, Ed Gamble.

The chart is real; it shows the result of the elimination of Florida's no-fault insurance system if it sunsets as planned on Oct. 1.

Only government could concoct a system so ridiculous and call it an improvement.

Be sure to have your pain relievers handy, because reading this chart is sure to give you a headache.

Now imagine you have been in an accident, and double your intake of pain relievers. Then, you'll need a lawyer to figure it out.

The current no-fault insurance system requires drivers to purchase personal injury protection to cover the first $10,000 in costs.

But it has been plagued with fraud.

"We've tried to fix it time after time," Sen. Jim King, R- Jacksonville, told the Times-Union in a news story.

King would like to replace no-fault coverage with some kind of mandatory medical coverage.

This needs to be included in a special legislative session scheduled to begin Sept. 18, primarily on the state's $1.5 billion budget deficit.

The chart only begins to illustrate the awful consequences of a fault-based insurance system. The Florida Department of Financial Services noted some of the effects:

-- Persons injured in auto accidents won't have automatic coverage for medical treatment from their auto insurers unless insurers offer medical payments insurance.

-- Without no fault insurance, costs may be shifted to employers, who provide most of the health insurance in Florida.

-- Since about 19 percent of Floridians don't have health insurance, that means problems with follow-up care once they leave the emergency room.

-- Red tape and increased lawsuits are likely as parties seek to sort out who is at fault in accidents.

And though fraud has been widespread, the new system is likely to develop its own varieties, the Florida Department of Financial Services reports.

Of course, insurance companies have promised that auto insurance rates will drop without the no-fault insurance coverage.

But, there is no free lunch. Simply letting no-fault coverage lapse will put pressures on employers, put even more financial pressures on safety net hospitals like Shands Jacksonville and Baptist Medical Center and send accident victims into a maze of lawsuits.

As usual, the only people sure to benefit from this mess will be the lawyers. The Legislature must address this.



If no-fault auto insurance sunsets on Oct. 1, here are some likely impacts:-- Auto insurance rates should drop.-- Health insurance rates may increase.-- Safety net hospitals will lose revenue.-- Lawsuits should increase.

(c) 2007 Florida Times Union. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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