LifeLock to pay $100 million to settle FTC contempt charges

The Federal Trade Commission has approved a settlement with LifeLock.
The Federal Trade Commission has approved a settlement with LifeLock.

LifeLock will pay $100 million to settle Federal Trade Commission contempt charges that it violated the terms of a 2010 federal court order that requires the company to secure consumers’ personal information and prohibits the company from deceptive advertising, the FTC said Thursday.

It’s the  largest monetary award ever obtained by the Commission in an order enforcement action.

“This settlement demonstrates the Commission’s commitment to enforcing the orders it has in place against companies, including orders requiring reasonable security for consumer data,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “The fact that consumers paid Lifelock for help in protecting their sensitive personal information makes the charges in this case particularly troubling.”

The FTC’s filing in the case alleged that LifeLock violated four components of the 2010 order. First, the FTC alleged that from at least October 2012 through March 2014, LifeLock failed to establish and maintain a comprehensive information security program to protect users’ sensitive personal information including their social security, credit card and bank account numbers.

Second, the filing alleged that during this period LifeLock falsely advertised that it protected consumers’ sensitive data with the same high-level safeguards used by financial institutions. Third, the FTC alleged that, from January 2012 through December 2014, LifeLock falsely advertised  that it would send alerts “as soon as” it received any indication that a consumer may be a victim of identity theft. Finally, the FTC alleged that the company failed to abide by the order’s recordkeeping requirements.

Under the terms of the settlement, LifeLock must deposit $100 million into the registry of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Of that $100 million, $68 million may be used to redress fees paid to LifeLock by class action consumers who were allegedly injured by the same behavior alleged by the FTC. These funds, however, must be paid directly to and received by consumers, and may not be used for any administrative or legal costs associated with the class action.

Any money not received by consumers in the class action settlement or through settlements between LifeLock and state attorneys general will be provided to the FTC for use in further consumer redress.

In addition to the settlement’s monetary provisions, recordkeeping provisions similar to those in the 2010 order have been extended to 13 years from the date of the original order.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 3-1, with Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen voting no. The Commission issued a statement. Commissioner Ohlhausen issued a dissenting statement. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

Once approved by the courts, the settlement will help bring to a close outstanding litigation with both the FTC and representatives of a national class of consumers relating to past marketing representations and information security programs.

As a part of the settlement, LifeLock neither confirms nor denies the allegations of the parties.

The company made the following statement Thursday:

“The FTC’s approval is a key component of a comprehensive settlement designed to enable LifeLock to move forward with a singular focus on protecting our members from threats to their identity. Our members are our highest priority and we are gratified by their confidence in us, reflected in the performance and continued growth of our business.

“The allegations raised by the FTC are related to advertisements that we no longer run and policies that are no longer in place. The settlement does not require us to change any of our current products or practices. Furthermore, there is no evidence that LifeLock has ever had any of its customers’ data stolen, and the FTC did not allege otherwise.

 “As part of our commitment to continual improvement, in recent years we have made significant investments in our people, process and systems throughout the company to address ever more complex and pervasive identity threats. We are pleased to put this matter behind us and look forward to continuing to provide industry-leading identity protection services to our members.”

 

Tinsel, pet treats, plants and other holiday hazards can harm pets

Make sure your pets are not hurt by holiday hazards.
Make sure your pets are not hurt by holiday hazards.

From stocking stuffers to tinsel and ribbons, the holidays are full of things that have the potential to harm dogs and and cats. Human treats such as chocolate can also  be dangerous.

Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has lots of advice about to keep pets safe.

If your dog received a stocking full of pet treats, make sure he doesn’t gobble them all up at once. According to Stamper, if he eats the treats whole, or eats too many at once, he may not be able to digest them. Unchewed pet treats can get stuck in the trachea (windpipe) or gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, and intestines), particularly in small dogs.

If your dog is in obvious distress from eating too much too fast, says Stamper, contact your vet immediately. Some telltale signs are drooling, choking, or vomiting.

Take note of timing. If a bone or chew toy lodges in your dog’s stomach or intestines, the symptoms might not be immediate. Hours to days later, he may vomit and have diarrhea, be less active, not want to eat, and have stomach pain. If the blockage stays there too long, your dog may become very ill. The worst-case scenario is when a hole develops at the blockage site, causing a life-threatening infection.

“When in doubt, contact your veterinarian, who may need to take x-rays or use an endoscope to see what and where the problem is,” Stamper says. Your dog may even need surgery to remove blockages in the intestines.

Tinsel and Ribbons

When decorating your tree and wrapping or unwrapping gifts, keep a close eye on where you leave your leftover tinsel, string, and ribbons.

“Your cat may find these decorations irresistible because they look like easy-to-catch, sparkly, and wiggly prey,” Stamper says. In fact, they can cause serious stomach and intestinal damage.

Symptoms may take a few hours or several days to appear, and include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and decreased activity. Play it safe by keeping tinsel off the tree and collecting all ribbons and strings after gifts are opened.

Holiday Plants

If you have holiday plants such as poinsettias, holly, or mistletoe around, take care. When you display (or dispose of) these plants, your cat may decide they’re good to eat, Stamper says.

Poinsettias, for example have a milky white, latex sap that can irritate your animal’s mouth and stomach and may cause vomiting and diarrhea. “If your cat has snacked on poinsettia leaves, you can help him by picking up his food and water dishes for a couple of hours to let his stomach settle,” Stamper advises.

The National Animal Poison Control Center  states that the major toxic chemicals in mistletoe are lectins and phoratoxins. These chemicals affect the heart, causing low blood pressure and slowed heart rate.

“Fortunately for your cat, severe mistletoe toxicity is uncommon and usually occurs only if your pet eats a large amount,” Stamper explains. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, and odd behavior.

While holly isn’t as harmful, you should still discourage your pets from eating the berries and leaves, Stamper says. In both dogs and cats, the plant’s toxins can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and decreased activity.

Table Scraps

Resist the temptation to give your pet table scraps that are high in fat, such as fat trimmed from meat or skin from your roasted turkey or chicken.

“In addition to the typical gastrointestinal upset, rich, fatty foods can cause a potentially life-threatening and painful disease called pancreatitis,” Stamper says. The most common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, stomach pain, restlessness, shaking, diarrhea, fever, and weakness.

In cats, the symptoms are less clear and harder to notice, such as decreased appetite and weight loss.

And be careful what you put in the trash can, Stamper warns. Dogs, especially, are notorious for helping themselves to the turkey carcass or steak bones disposed of there. As with too many treats, bones can get stuck in your dog’s esophagus, or trachea. Sharp pieces of bones can also injure your dog’s mouth, esophagus, and stomach, and can cause severe internal injuries.

“Don’t forget, once dinner is done, dispose of the leftovers and bones somewhere where your pets can’t get to them,” Stamper says.

Other Human Treats, Including Alcohol

As many pet owners know, chocolate can be dangerous to your dog or cat. Chocolate toxicity depends on the type and amount of chocolate your dog has eaten, his body weight, and if he’s extra-sensitive to the toxic compound in chocolate called theobromine, Stamper says.

Moreover, the seemingly harmless mints common in the holiday season cause life-threatening problems for your dog if they contain xylitol, also found in food items such as candy, gum, some peanut butters, and baked goods, and personal hygiene products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash. Symptoms occur quickly after dogs eat xylitol-containing items, Stamper says. Vomiting is generally first, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar (hypoglycemia), such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, and seizures. Check the package labels to see if they contain xylitol.

After eating chocolate, some pets develop more severe complications, including liver failure, bleeding disorders, and death. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate or xylitol-containing items, consider it an emergency and call your veterinarian immediately.

Finally, there’s alcohol. Depending on how much they drink, pets that consume alcohol can develop serious problems. The most common symptoms in pets associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages are vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, weakness, decreased activity, difficulty breathing, and shaking. In severe cases, coma and death from respiratory failure (lungs stop functioning) can occur.

“Don’t accidentally leave your eggnog on the coffee table,” Stamper says.

 

Whoa on Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna deals, 9 groups say

medical dollarsA coalition of nine consumer advocacy and union groups are urging Florida regulators to think twice about approving big health mergers they say will reduce competition and consumer choice and could lead to higher premiums in counties including Palm Beach.

For example, combining Aetna and Humana “would give the combined entity over half of all Medicare Advantage enrollees in five Florida counties: Broward, Franklin, Palm Beach, Pasco, Volusia,” according to a letter signed by Washington-based attorneys representing the groups.

The organizations include Consumers Union, Florida CHAIN, Florida Rural Health Association, U.S. PIRG,1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Consumer Watchdog, Florida Policy Institute, Consumer Action and Florida PIRG.

“Many of the most important consumer groups, health care providers, and unions are speaking in a single voice raising the profound concerns raised by these mergers,” said David A. Balto, former policy director for the Federal Trade Commission and public interest antitrust attorney who is counsel of record for the groups. “They document how history demonstrates consumers lose when insurers get bigger by paying higher premiums, suffering through more limited networks, and receiving worse service. That’s why these groups have called for careful scrutiny by the Insurance Commissioner and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.”

The letter came a day ahead of the Thursday deadline for public comment on the proposed Aetna-Humana merger.  The deadline is Friday for Anthem’s acquisition of Cigna and affiliates.

The review by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is one of several at the state and federal levels to be completed in coming months.

Simply rubber-stamping the deals will result in too much concentration of market power, the comment letter says.

“As a result of these two mergers, four companies, Florida Blue, UnitedHealth, Aetna, and Anthem would control just under 90 percent of the Florida commercial market,” the letter says. It also asserts Florida would see one of the nation’s biggest concentrations of market power in the “administrative-services-only” market, where insurers administer plans for companies who pay their own claims.

Aetna and Humana representatives said at a Dec. 7 hearing they expect to save $1.25 billion through their proposed merger by 2018 and their combined expertise will help them serve customers better. The deal would capitalize on “complementary” strengths in different areas of business, they argued.

“While the merging companies have argued supposed benefits associated with these mergers, available scholarly evidence suggests that consumers will see limited to no benefits and instead will face higher costs, less innovation, and potentially lower quality of care,” the comment letter says.

Florida’s Biggest Health Insurers

1. UnitedHealth Grp $8.9 billion
2. BCBS Of Florida Grp $8.8 billion
3. Humana Grp  $7.9 billion
4. Aetna Grp  $3.5 billion
5. WellCare Grp $2.1 billion
6. Cigna Health Grp $1.9 billion
7. America’s 1st Choice Grp $1 billion
8. Centene Corp Grp $788 million
9. AvMed $783 million
10.WellPoint Inc Grp $615 million

Source: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, 2013 premiums

 

Alert: If you have these two Obamacare plans, change immediately

alertOne day before an extended deadline to secure Jan. 1 health coverage, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation issued a consumer alert on two companies Wednesday.

Officials reminded consumers Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co. and Preferred Medical Plan Inc. will no longer be providing coverage to policyholders on the Affordable Care Act exchange for plan year 2016.

The insurance office said it “strongly urges consumers who purchased health insurance coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace (Exchange) in 2015 through either Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co. or Preferred Medical Plan Inc. to take action immediately and select another plan, if they have not already done so, by visiting www.healthcare.gov.”

The deadline has been extended to Thursday to secure coverage effective Jan. 1.

A majority of affected policyholders are located in the South Florida region, officials said, though they did not say how many may still need to take action.

Cigna repeated a statement The Palm Beach Post reported in October, blaming addiction treatment fraud for its decision not to offer marketplace plans in 2016, though the company hopes to resume in 2017. An estimated 30,000 customers were affected, the newspaper reported at the time.

Preferred, based in Coral Gables, said a maximum of 77,000 customers are affected. A company statement cited problems in the federal government’s “risk corridor” plan, where Congress blocked certain sources of funding for the program intended to help insurers cover unexpected losses.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t eat the mistletoe and other holiday plant advice from UF expert

It's okay to kiss under the mistletoe.
It’s okay to kiss under the mistletoe.

Those plants you bought to beautify your home during the holidays may look lovely, but they can pose dangers to your pets and children, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences expert says.

Wendy Wilber, statewide master gardener coordinator for UF/IFAS Extension, warns of four types of holiday plants that could bring peril to your dog, cat or small child, if they eat parts of them:

  • Poinsettia: These are not toxic, but they can be an irritant, if consumed. Symptoms include a mouth rash and upset stomach in children or pets who eat too many leaves or bracts. The milky sap in the plant can irritate the skin. Pets and kids would be attracted by the colorful foliage.
  • Holly berries: These cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and drowsiness if a child eats as few as two berries. Most of the time, the berries fall off a decoration and onto the floor, and that is where a child or pet might find the red berries and eat them.
  • Mistletoe: All parts of the plant are toxic if consumed. The white berries seem to be the most attractive to kids or pets. Consumption of mistletoe can cause blurred vision, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, changes in blood pressure and death. Wilber urges you to seek medical attention immediately if someone consumes parts of mistletoe.
  • Amaryllis: The bulb has the toxin Lycorine in it. One would have to eat a lot of bulbs to become sick from it. “But having been the owner of a Labrador retriever, I know these things are possible,” Wilber said. “So amaryllis is more of a concern for pet owners.” For the dogs or cats who eat a lot of bulbs, one would see diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. She urges you to contact your veterinarian immediately.

Wilber’s advice is simple.

“Keep holiday decorations out of reach, and make sure no pieces fall on the floor,” she said. “Or skip mistletoe and holly until the kids are a little older.”

For information about keeping your children and pets safe from the potential perils of holiday plants, go to: http://bit.ly/1TnyoyD.

More than 100 million Americans to travel over holidays, AAA says

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

AAA projects the number of year-end holiday travelers will top 100 million for the first time on record. Nearly one in three Americans (100.5 million) will journey 50 miles or more between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3. This shows a 1.4 percent increase of travelers over last year and the seventh consecutive year of travel growth for this holiday period.

“The increase in holiday travel this year is driven by continued improvement in the labor market, rising incomes and low gas prices which remain well below last year’s levels,” said Brent Stahlheber, senior vice president of brand marketing and travel at AAA . “This helps boost Americans’ disposable income, generating more money to spend on lodging, dining out, and buying gifts.”

Driving remains the most popular mode of travel for the end-of-the-year holidays

  • More than 90 percent of travelers (91.3 million people) will drive to their holiday destinations– an increase of 1.4 percent over last year.
  • Air travel is expected to increase by 0.7 percent, with 5.8 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations.
  • Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.4 percent (3.4 million)

Lowest New Year’s gas prices in seven years expected

The national and Florida average prices for a gallon of gasoline are poised to fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark by Christmas. Monday’s national average was $2.01, 32 cents less than Christmas Day 2014 and 23 cents lower than the price on New Year’s Day 2015. In Florida, the average price on Monday was $2.03 –39 cents lower than Christmas Day 2014 and 33 cents lower than New Year’s Day 2015.

AAA predicts that drivers will pay the lowest gas prices this holiday season since 2008.

Airfares fall, hotel and car rental rates rise modestly

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes are six percent lower this holiday season, falling to an average of $174 roundtrip. Rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings will be four percent higher this year, with travelers spending an average of $150 per night. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has risen 11 percent with an average nightly cost of $119. Car rental rates will average to about $68 per day, three percent higher than last year’s holiday travel season.

 AAA To The Rescue

AAA expects to help nearly 900,000 motorists during the 12-day holiday travel period with dead batteries, lockouts, flat tires, and many other motor issues. AAA recommends motorists check the condition of their battery and tires for winter driving before heading out on a holiday getaway. Also, have vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the nearly 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Members can download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.

AAA cautions against impaired driving this holiday season

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Traffic Safety Culture Index, one in five licensed drivers (21%), who drink at least occasionally, reported to have driven when they thought their alcohol level might have been close to, or possibly over, the legal limit in the past year.

“As we celebrate the holiday season, AAA urges travelers to be cautious about their safety and the safety of everyone sharing the roadways,” said Amy Stracke, Executive Director of the Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation. “Ninety-seven percent of licensed drivers consider it unacceptable to drive when they may have had too much to drink, yet there is an average of one alcohol-impaired driving death every 53 minutes.”

Download the AAA Mobile app before a holiday getaway

Before setting out on a holiday trip, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

With the AAA Mobile app, travelers can also find more than 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants via TripTik Travel Planner. AAA’s is the only rating system that uses full-time, professionally trained evaluators to inspect each property on an annual basis. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2015 year-end holiday travel forecast can be found here.

Travel numbers from AAA

Auto travel

National: 91.3 million in 2015; up from 90 million in 2014

Florida: 4,752,535 in 2015; up from 4,662,262 in 2014

Air travel

National: 5.8 million in 2015; up from 5.7 million in 2014

Florida: 276,821 in 2015; up from 274,114 in 2014

Other modes

National: 3.44 million in 2015; up from 3.36 million in 2014

Florida: 193,880 in 2015; up from 189,429 in 2014

Total travel

National: 100.5 million in 2015; up from 99.1 million in 2014

Florida: 5,223,235 in 2015; up from 5,125,805 in 2014

Low gas prices could spur some consumers to spend more in stores

Some consumers say they will spend more in stores because gas prices are low.
Some consumers say they will spend more in stores because gas prices are low.

Two in three gasoline customers report that gas prices in their area are lower than they were last month, and the continued drop in prices could spur last-minute shopping at stores over the holiday season, according to the latest Consumer Fuels Survey results released by the National Association of Convenience Stores.

More than one in four consumers — 27 percent — say that they will increase their spending this month, an increase from the 24 percent who said so a year ago in December 2014, the survey found.

Two in five (40 percent) of  Millennials, people age 18 to 34,  say that they will increase their spending this month, an increase from 33 percent in December 2014.

Younger consumers also will be driving more: 39 percent say they will be driving more this month than last month, significantly higher than the 22% of Americans overall who expect to drive more this month.

Nationally, consumers report a median gas price of $2, 20 cents lower than last month and 70 cents lower than they were in December 2014.

Looking forward, consumers continue to grow more confident that gas prices will stay low over the next month. Only one in three fuel consumers  say that they expect prices to be higher in thirty days, the lowest number that have predicted increased prices since January.

“The rise or fall of gas prices is one of the best predictors of overall economic optimism — 71 percent of Americans said gas prices affect their feelings about the economy — but the link has been much weaker the past few months,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. “The current political climate may play a role — the last time we saw a similarly weak link was in October 2013 with the federal government shutdown.”

NACS, which represents the convenience store industry that sells 80 percent of the gas sold in the country, conducts the monthly consumer sentiment survey to gauge how gas prices affect broader economic trends. The NACS survey was conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland; 1,104 gas consumers nationally were surveyed December 8-11, 2015. Summary results are available at www.nacsonline.com/gasprices.

Most vehicles’ traffic alert systems do not detect pedestrians

Don't count on an alert system to keep you from hitting a pedestrian.
Don’t count on an alert system to keep you from hitting a pedestrian.

If you have ever barely missed hitting a pedestrian walking behind your car in a crowded parking lot, you know the scary feeling.

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s even more likely that a distracted shopper could step behind your vehicle as you are backing out.

If your car is equipped with a rear cross traffic alert system, don’t rely solely on it, AAA warns. In tests it found that such systems failed to detect pedestrians 60 percent of the time, and they don’t work if you are backing out at an angle.

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA tested rear cross traffic alert systems, designed to alert drivers to traffic passing behind a reversing vehicle, and found significant system limitations exist when parked between larger vehicles, such as SUVs or minivans.  In this common parking lot scenario, the tested systems failed to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles and other vehicles at alarming rates:

  • A passing motorcycle was not detected by the systems in nearly half (48 percent) of tests.
  • The systems failed to detect a bicycle passing behind the vehicle two in five times.
  • The systems failed to detect a passing vehicle three in ten times.

While not all systems are designed to detect pedestrians, the technology failed to detect pedestrians the majority (60 percent) of the time.

“Motorists should always physically check behind their vehicle before backing out of a parking space because there maybe objects the sensors did not detect,” said AAA spokeswoman Montrae Waiters.“It’s important to keep in mind that RCTA systems only work when a motorist is backing straight out of a parking space. They system does not work if you are parked at an angle.”

AAA offers the following recommendations:

  • If car shopping, a vehicle equipped with RCTA system may boost rear visibility, but should not be relied on to prevent crashes.
  • Even if your vehicle is equipped with RCTA system, always reverse slowly, turning and checking blind spots to verify that a vehicle, bicyclist or pedestrian is not approaching the vehicle.
  • Owners of a vehicle equipped with RCTA system should understand system limitations before using the feature. In AAA’s testing, system accuracy varied widely among vehicles.
  • Whenever possible, reverse into a parking space. Driving forward out of parking space increases driver visibility and lessens the likelihood of a crash.
  • Consumers should inquire about the cost of RCTA systems, two in five 2015 model year vehicles will have this technology. Packages that include this feature range in price from $600 to more than $9,000. The average cost for this feature on 2015 model year vehicles is approximately $2,373.

“RCTA systems were designed to improve safety features in vehicles,” said Waiters. “In order for the technology to work properly motorists knowledge of the operating system is Key.”

Previous AAA testing of rear-view camera systems, required on all new vehicles by 2018, revealed significant consumer benefits including increased visibility of the rear blind zone by an average of 46 percent.  However, it’s important to note that no system shows 100 percent of the space behind a vehicle and that rain, snow or slush can impede camera visibility.

Honk now if you want to kill Florida’s costly no-fault car insurance

upset driverAfter more than 40 years, Florida’s no-fault car insurance system would end by 2019 under a bill filed by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

“The system is broken and rife with fraud and abuse,” Brandes said. “There is no amount of tweaking that will fix PIP. Florida can do better, and this repeal will force policymakers to address this important issue impacting every driver in our state.”

That’s potentially fantastic news to consumers like Loren Egley of Delray Beach, who question why the state forces them to buy $10,000 of medical coverage for minor car accidents when they already have health insurance such as Medicare. “It’s like double taxation,” Egley said. Florida drivers pay the fourth highest premiums in the nation.

SB 1112, filed quietly on Friday, would repeal the law requiring drivers to buy Personal Injury Protection coverage for injuries regardless of who is at fault in an accident. The system was designed to reduce lawsuits and get claims paid quickly, but it has been plagued by overflowing lawsuits of its own, fraud and high premiums for relatively little coverage despite a series of reform attempts. An overhaul backed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012 eliminated massage and acupuncture and reduced non-emergency benefits to $2,500.

Other kill-PIP attempts have failed as interest groups including hospitals and insurers lobbied to protect the system, and Scott has said he wanted to preserve PIP and give reforms a chance to work. But Brandes has been an important player driving the agenda on flood insurance and other issues, and his sponsorship could matter a lot.

Scott “will review any legislation that makes it to his desk,” a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The rumblings have been out there. The filing follows comments by the state’s top regulator at an industry conference in October questioning whether the system is worth “fixing” again — and wondering aloud if maybe it’s just time to end it, as The Palm Beach Post reported.

“What do you do?” Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said. “Here’s an idea. I’m just throwing it out there for discussion. Let’s just repeal PIP and do nothing.”

A group representing hospitals argued killling PIP would not be a good solution because it would still leave big problems for the state to solve.

“While more Floridians have health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act, there are nearly 3 million people in Florida who remain uninsured,” the Florida Hospital Association said in a statement. “PIP serves as the only form of coverage for uninsured individuals who seek emergency care following an auto accident. If PIP is eliminated, coverage for uninsured motorists must be addressed through options such as medical payment policies, which provide a limited form of insurance coverage.”

The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, representing some of the state’s biggest car insurers, has “yet to consider and discuss this legislation” and had no immediate statement, executive director Michael Carlson said Tuesday.

But many drivers say as federal health law covers more people, they see a huge net win by eliminating mandatory PIP coverage that can account for 20 percent or more of a consumer’s total bill. Colorado drivers saved 35 percent on their overall bills after dropping a no-fault system, the Post reported.

Poll: Traveling this summer? Why you need to check your passport

Want to go relax on a beach in Greece this summer? Be sure to check your passport expiration date first. (Getty Images)
Want to go relax on a beach in Greece this summer? Be sure to check your passport expiration date first. (Getty Images)

Summer is a peak time for travel, and as you’re getting ready to hit the road, you may want to double check the expiration date on your passport.

Why? Some countries require your passport to be valid for at least another six months. So if your passport is set to expire, say, 25 days after your scheduled return date, you may want to check this website to see if you need to renew before boarding your plane.

Take our poll: Are you heading to any of these popular destinations this summer? Then scroll down to see passport validation requirements. You can search on this site for other countries not listed here.

Passport validation requirements for popular destinations, according to the U.S. Department of State

The Caribbean: Bahamas (valid at time of entry); Cuba (valid at time of entry); Haiti (valid at time of entry); Dominican Republic (valid at time of entry); Turks and Caicos (valid at time of entry and for duration of stay); Jamaica (valid at time of entry)

Mexico: Six months minimum validity required for entry

Canada: Valid at time of entry

The Mediterranean: Italy (valid for at least three months beyond planned departure date; six months recommended); Greece (valid for at least three months beyond planned departure date); Turkey (recommended eight months beyond date of entry); Israel (six months); Egypt (valid at time of entry)

Europe: Spain (valid for at least three months beyond planned departure date); France (valid a minimum six months at entry and for additional three months beyond planned departure date); Switzerland (valid for at least three months beyond planned departure date); Germany (valid for at least three months beyond planned departure date and contain at least two blank pages); United Kingdom (valid for duration of stay); Ireland (valid at time of entry; six months recommended)

Asia: China (six months); Japan (valid for duration of stay); Thailand (valid six months from date of entry)