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)