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No-Fault Insurance System to End Shortly Before Legislators Renew It

Sep 24, 2007

By Randy Diamond, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

Sep. 25--Florida's no-fault auto insurance system probably will expire for at least a couple of days before lawmakers get to it.

Although there were plans in the offing for another special session before the Sept. 30 expiration date of personal injury protection, or PIP, insiders say it is more likely that legislators will pick up the matter during the special session on the state's fiscal crisis, set to begin Oct. 3.

No-fault auto insurance covers the medical expenses and lost wages of people injured in vehicle accidents, regardless of fault.

Sen. William Posey, R-Rockledge, chairman of the banking and insurance committee, said legislation is being drafted that would continue Florida's no-fault auto insurance system past the expiration date.

Further, the legislative leadership in both the Senate and the House support it, he said.

Posey predicts the bill will pass both chambers.

Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, who forged the agreement with Posey, said House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, supports new legislation extending no-fault.

Bogdanoff and Posey were selected by their respective elective bodies to negotiate an agreement after the two chambers failed to find common ground on an extension of no-fault during the regular session.

If lawmakers wait until after Oct. 3 to review the expiration of the auto insurance system, there will be a gap of several days between when no-fault sunsets and the system is revised.

That could leave some Florida residents without coverage in the event that they are involved in an accident and don't have health insurance to cover their treatment costs.

Bogdanoff said a limited number of policyholders would be affected, including individuals with auto policies being renewed in the first few days of October.

A motorist's no-fault coverage continues until their policy expires.

The end result is that only a small percentage of Florida's motorist policies actually expire Oct. 1 or 2 or even in the first week of the month.

"The sky won't fall in if there is a two- or three-day gap,'' Bogdanoff said.

William Stander, regional vice president of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said many insurers face a ''logistical nightmare'' if the no-fault system is revised.

He said insurers notify customers 45 days in advance of renewal of their policy, and most insurers have not billed customers for the continuation of no-fault.

His group will continue to push for the end of no-fault, Stander said.

He insists its elimination would lower insurance rates for most motorists.

Hospitals say they stand to lose $350 million in reimbursements if no-fault ends, which could cause disruptions in the emergency health-care system.

Posey said his committee probably will convene a public hearing on the bill on the first day of the session. The House insurance committee likewise will review the proposal.

Once each signs off on the bill, it would it go to the full House and Senate.

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