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No-fault auto insurance reform bill criticized

Today is the 17th day of the 60-day session.

By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 20, 2003

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee took its first look at a proposal to reform Florida's no-fault auto insurance law Wednesday and heard it denounced as too favorable to the insurance industry.

"I realize that our friends from the insurance industry have filled this bill with insurance protection," Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Tamarac, said.

Campbell said the bill (SB 1202) should be confined to measures aimed at reducing fraud, but the sponsor, Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said a comprehensive approach is needed.

The committee discussed the bill at a workshop, but took no action.

One of the most controversial provisions would set a fee schedule for payments to medical providers based on the Medicare rate. The bill currently would set the fees at 50 percent more than Medicare, but Alexander said this will be amended to make it twice the Medicare rate.

Providers, however, said they opposed any schedule based on Medicare.

Under no-fault, adopted in 1971, motor vehicle owners buy insurance to cover themselves for nonpermanent injuries in auto accidents, regardless of fault.

Mental health advocates lambaste medicine plan

Mental health advocates said a proposed policy being considered by the Agency for Health Care Administration would create chaos for thousands of Floridians who suffer from mental illnesses.

The push is to get patients to use less expensive medications, but a report released by the Florida Psychiatric Society says that won't save the state money.

The group also unveiled television and radio spots to begin airing statewide that call on Gov. Jeb Bush to pull the plug on the ACHA proposal.

"If they knew what they were doing and the effects it will have, they wouldn't even consider it," Tampa psychiatrist Dr. David Moore said at a news conference outside the House chamber.

Moore said it would create needless suffering for people with mental illnesses to experiment with less effective drugs.

"Unrelenting hallucinations, disturbing voices and thoughts of suicide," Moore said.

Bill to improve doctors' penmanship moves ahead

A measure that aims to force doctors to write more neatly when they fill out prescriptions cleared the House Health Care Committee Wednesday.

The bill (HB 363) requiring that prescriptions be "legibly printed or typed" was approved 19-2.

Among the supporters was Rep. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, whose husband is a doctor.

"My husband has the worst handwriting in the world," Sobel said.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Shelly Vana, D-West Palm Beach, still needs approval from House budget committees. A similar measure (SB 2084) is filed in the Senate.

Several confirmations remain iffy, King says

Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, expects his chamber will eventually confirm Jerry Regier as secretary at the Department of Children and Families and Phil Handy as chairman of the Board of Education -- but it won't be easy.

"I would fully anticipate that every confirmation that we have before us is going to be a difficult one for the people being confirmed," King said Wednesday.

Handy, a Winter Park businessman and Republican activist, failed to win Senate confirmation last year but was reappointed by the Board of Education.

Regier created concerns with his writings on the role of women and disciplining children.

"They're doing exactly what they should be doing, going member to member . . . saying, 'Is there a problem; can we talk about it now?' " King said. "We're just giving everybody a chance to go around and schmooze."

Senate Democrats are also expected to challenge Gov. Jeb Bush's choice of Glenda Hood as secretary of state.

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