A car insurance system many Florida drivers reject as a costly and fraud-prone duplication of their health insurance would end after almost 50 years under a bill that passed the Florida House 89-29 on Wednesday.
That puts the ball in the court of the Florida Senate with the session winding down, but the House vote sends a ringing message that drivers like Dick Natalizio of Palm Beach Gardens welcomed.
“Fantastic,” Natalizio said. He has called the PIP system created in 1971 a “joke” that forces drivers to pay twice for health insurance they already get from Medicare, employer plans or other coverage. PIP rates have shot up an average of 25 percent in Florida since the start of 2015, but drivers have no choice except to pay even if they are never in an accident.
An actuarial study commissioned by the state last year found drivers could save up to $81 per car by repealing a state requirement to buy $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection, which covers a driver or passenger’s own injuries regardless of who is at fault in an accident.
Researchers found average driver savings would be about 5.6 percent by repealing PIP and instead requiring bodily-injury liability coverage to cover others when the driver is at fault in amounts of $25,000 per person or $50,000 per accident, as the House bill does. More than 90 percent of Florida drivers already carry at least some BI coverage, and two out of three carry 25/50. So it repeals a costly mandate and imposes one most already meet, putting them into a position to save money.
Florida is one of two states that do not require bodily-injury liability coverage, HB 1063 sponsor Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, reminded colleagues on the House floor Wednesday. That means drivers are not required to take any responsibility in their insurance for injuring others.
Two dozen states have concluded no-fault systems are costly failures in recent decades and dropped them, so that only a handful now remain. Colorado drivers saved 35 percent on their overall car insurance premiums after dropping a no-fault plan.
“It is time to repeal PIP,” Grall said.
Florida drivers are required to buy some of the lowest coverage amounts in the nation, yet they pay among the eight highest average premiums.
State Rep. Julio Gonzales, R-Venice and an orthopedic surgeon, said he fully admits the PIP system is “broken,” but he opposed the bill because PIP at least makes sure drivers without health insurance have some coverage at emergency rooms. By some estimates about 13 percent of Floridians do not have health insurance, though hospitals are required to treat them in an emergency.
“I do not think we can bring this plane in for a landing without addressing the slew of physicians standing by to take care of us,” Gonzales said.
A Senate bill, SB 1766, would repeal PIP and require BI but also mandate $5,000 in “medical payments” coverage to cover a driver’s own injuries. Grall said the problem is that largely just preserves PIP under another name. Studies show it would wipe out potential driver savings, and still force responsible drivers in effect to pay twice for health insurance. The bill is still in committee.
The office of Senate president Joe Negron, R-Stuart, office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he supports PIP repeal getting a full airing in the Senate this session.