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NO FAULT INSURANCE Don't Ignore the Issue

Jun 1, 2007

There will be serious consequences if no fault insurance sunsets in October.

This issue needs to be addressed in the special legislative session starting June 12.

There is no question that the current system needs to be reformed. Fraud is too great.

Spokesmen for the auto insurance industry say that auto insurance premiums will drop if no fault disappears in October.

The problem, according to convincing arguments from the state's safety net hospitals, is that the costs have to go somewhere.

Safety net hospitals, especially Shands Jacksonville and Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville, will lose important sources of revenue for treating the uninsured. Without that revenue, services are bound to be stressed, which will affect everyone seeking emergency room treatment.

These hospitals will have even more difficulty persuading physicians to remain on call for emergency room services if payments are not received.

Quality of care will have to decline, said Paul Rosenberg, general counsel for Shands Jacksonville. Personal injury protection payments to Florida hospitals amount to $350 million a year. Hospitals can't just absorb that large of a hit.

Hugh Greene, the CEO of Baptist Health, said their hospitals typically collect 3 percent of the costs from uninsured patients.

Costs for the uninsured will be shifted to health insurance companies and could also increase the cost of uninsured motorist coverage and bodily insurance for those with auto insurance.

Higher health insurance costs could result in businesses dropping coverage for their employees, resulting in more uninsured claims, producing a cost spiral.

The Legislature needs to reform the no fault system to eliminate the fraud, or at least provide some sort of bodily injury protection for the uninsured.

Florida legislators must not leave the state's safety net hospitals in the lurch by allowing the no fault insurance system to sunset in October.

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

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