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Deal to Keep PIP Likely Faces Opposition

Sep 27, 2007

By Joe Follick, The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.

Sep. 28--A deal to keep the state's "no fault" auto insurance requirement may face bipartisan opposition if lawmakers try to revive the controversial mandate next week.

"It's about taking our system from (one) that has zero personal responsibility to a system based on personal responsibility," said Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, in advocating the end of "no fault" requirements.

Aronberg and Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Winter Haven, said Thursday they would rather see the state enforce mandatory "bodily injury" insurance that would have the at-fault driver pay for medical costs.

The state's requirement that all drivers carry Personal Injury Protection coverage expires Monday. PIP insurance covers up to $10,000 of medical costs in case of an accident, regardless of who caused the injuries.

But opponents -- led by auto insurers -- say the PIP system encourages fraudulent health care providers seeking excessive payments from staged accidents.

Supporters say the requirement speeds up small claims that would otherwise go to court, and also ensures quick payment for relatively minor care in emergency rooms or legitimate doctors.

Early Thursday, House and Senate negotiators said they had reached a deal to reform PIP during a special session that begins next week. Lawmakers are returning to cut more than $1 billion in spending to fix a budget deficit.

The complex agreement would limit payments for medical procedures paid by PIP coverage and also seek to eliminate payments to so-called "PIP clinics" that are set up to profit from the insurance.

But the complicated issue has become a classic Tallahassee battle with dozens of lobbyists, political consultants and public relations firms lobbing rhetorical bombs. Agreement on such a controversial topic may be difficult to achieve, especially if lawmakers have an alternative such as the one offered by Aronberg and Alexander, who are widely respected in both parties.

Their plan would make the state enforce its requirement that motorists carry "bodily injury" coverage to pay for medical costs from an accident.

Alexander said the idea that lawmakers have already agreed to keep PIP was mistaken.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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