South Florida Hospital News
Sunday August 18, 2019
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July 2007 - Volume 4 - Issue 1

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Governor Crist is Right in Seeking Extension of PIP

Will Floridians accept higher health insurance premiums, more uninsured adults and children, and threats to our state’s trauma care network in exchange for the questionable promise that repealing no-fault auto insurance will lower their auto coverage rates?

Florida’s hospitals don’t think so. Thankfully, Governor Charlie Crist doesn’t either. And neither should you.

On May 4, state legislators left Tallahassee after failing to improve or replace Florida’s 36-year-old no-fault law, which requires motorists to carry $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection. As a result, the no-fault/PIP law will expire October 1—leaving millions of Floridians who have no health insurance exposed if they’re in a crash with injuries.

In recent weeks, Governor Crist has stated that PIP is important for citizens and that he wants legislators to extend the repeal date – potentially in the special session June 12-22. Hospitals applaud the Governor for his leadership – because allowing PIP to die without some form of mandatory medical coverage hurts all Floridians.

Our state’s hospitals – led by the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida and the Florida Hospital Association – are working with health plans, emergency medical specialists, physicians groups and first responders to build support for Governor Crist’s efforts and to educate the public on the consequences of inaction.

Why is PIP important?

First, in a state where one in five people have no health insurance, PIP offers auto accident victims access to health care services and timely insurance coverage.

About 40 percent of all crash victims transported to Florida’s hospital emergency rooms and trauma centers have no health coverage to pay for their treatment other than PIP. Without it, they face personal financial disaster or long, expensive lawsuits to determine if they’ll be covered.

More broadly, the loss of PIP hurts all Floridians – not just accident victims. It hurts community health across our state.

Without PIP, health insurance premiums will rise, because the costs of auto-crash care will be shifted to health policies. That could increase the ranks of Florida’s uninsured, as employers already struggling to provide health coverage to workers and their families will not be able to accept an increase in health premiums.

Florida needs to find ways to increase, not decrease, health coverage. In fact, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida estimates that without PIP, health premiums for a family of four would increase $240 to $336 a year – eliminating most savings that auto insurers claim can be achieved by killing PIP.

Hospital emergency departments and the state’s trauma care network will be harmed too. These life-saving facilities accept all patients, regardless of ability to pay. They are expensive to run and staff day and night with highly specialized surgeons, technicians and technology.

In 2005, Florida hospitals received about $350 million in PIP reimbursement for treating crash victims. Without PIP, hospitals will provide even more uncompensated care, which is already straining the system. This could endanger trauma centers, especially those outside major metropolitan areas that are already financially struggling to stay open.

While auto insurers boast about the savings you’ll achieve from eliminating PIP, they fail to tell you that other parts of your auto premium – Bodily Injury Liability and Uninsured Motorist coverage – will go up. Hospitals didn’t conclude this – Florida Senate analysts did.

Additionally, a costly new wave of litigation could wash over Florida, because fault will have to be established in determining liability in every auto accident. And, eliminating no fault/PIP opens the door to victims suing for subjective non-economic damages.

It’s in the public interest to either fix and extend no fault or to create replacement mandatory medical coverage. Governor Crist is right. Support his efforts, and tell your legislator to protect medical coverage for motorists in June.

Marvin O’Quinn is the President and CEO of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and board chairman of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. He can be reached at info@jhsmiami.org.

Jim Nathan is President and CEO of Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers and board chairman of the Florida Hospital Association. For more information, visit www.leememorial.org.

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