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Drivers, it could be your fault

The state Senate loves no-fault laws, but House lawmakers says the system is ripe with fraud.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published April 28, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - It's not looking so good for the state's no-fault laws.

The Florida Senate unanimously passed an automobile insurance bill Friday that the Florida House won't like. That could mean the end of Florida's mandatory no-fault laws, which currently require Florida drivers to carry $10,000 worth of personal injury protection (known as PIP) to cover health care costs in wrecks, no matter who is at fault.

The Senate voted 37-to-0 on a bill to extend the state's no fault law until 2011, with $2.8-million toward fighting fraud, similar to a bill the Legislature passed last year, which Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed.

But even the Senate bill's sponsor Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, predicted doom and couldn't say whether his colleagues should vote for the bill. That's because House Speaker Marco Rubio has said he would rather let the state's no fault law disappear, as it is scheduled to do on Oct. 1 if the Legislature does nothing, then pass something less than meaningful reform.

"It's unfortunate we don't have a 'choose-not-to-vote' button," said Posey, whose own automobile insurance bill was rewritten earlier this week by senators lobbied by the health care industry.

On Monday, the House unveiled its auto insurance plan. It would replace the current no-fault system with one requiring drivers to carry $15,000 worth of coverage to pay mostly hospital and emergency care bills that are triggered by an emergency room visit, regardless of who is at fault.

Both Rubio and Rep. Ellyn Bodanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, who is in charge of the House automobile insurance plan, doubted the House would pass the Senate's plan.

"We have to wipe out fraud, the current PIP system has so much fraud built in, and unless that's addressed, I'm not sure we're going to be able to do anything about it," Rubio said.