PIP or no PIP - Consumer will face the music

Guest Column
The Saint Petersburg Times
September 21 & September 27, 2007
Print Version
In Florida, the sun sets on PIP in October 2007, and the consumer continues to take the role
of David in yet another David vs Goliath story.

Setting fraud aside, with PIP, providers such as hospitals, clinics and doctors charge many
times, anywhere from four to ten times they would a patient with health insurance. I have not
seen automobile insurers question this unfair practice.  May be auto insurance companies
cannot question this practice or maybe they do not want to violate the 30-day limit within
which they have to pay the bills or it may just be more cost efficient for them to just pay the
bills.

I also know personally that providers bill the patient for the 20% of the cost (PIP pays 80%) in
spite of the patient's health insurance serving as secondary insurance. Health insurance
companies make you fill accident related paper work several times, have a not-my-problem
stance, and keep delaying paying their share till the collection agency comes knocking on the
consumer’s door.

This is in spite that in many cases, the health insurance company makes the determination
that it or the patient is required to pay nothing beyond the PIP payment because the
automobile insurance company has already paid in excess of the benefits the health insurance
company would have otherwise paid the provider.

With no PIP, it is expected that 40% of emergency accident patients in Tampa Bay will have no
coverage. Hospitals administrators refuse to accept responsibility for being part to the PIP
fiasco by not even acknowledging that they charge exorbitant rates. Try asking them to
answer the question categorically about these exorbitant rates in an interview and they will
put slick-Willy to shame by their avoidant answers or by playing coy to say that they do not
understand the question. It happened last month in an interview with Florida Matters on our
local NPR radio station. However, the same hospital administrators are quick to cry that they
will have to absorb the cost of serving these patients and are able to spill out statistics about
these costs like a blended scientist-auctioneer robot.

Do not many patients pay monthly if they cannot afford to pay? Do they not send collection
agencies after the non-payers? Even if not able to fully, do they not pay more than a
consumer with health insurance.  Are all of the non-payees filing bankruptcy because they
cannot pay?

If hospitals and doctors charged fairly, we would have had many more advocates for keeping
PIP. Now instead we will see more trial lawyers of accident victims bringing automobile
insurance companies to court, charging their share of money, while the consumer will end up
losing further with rising health and automobile insurance premiums.

I recommend that buying PIP be optional to the consumer while being encouraged to buy it if
they have no health insurance coverage. If the medically uninsured want to forgo the PIP
coverage, they are not being responsible citizens.

However, the reform cannot stop there.

Legislature should control hospital rates for accident victims. They should also pass the law for
real-time links between auto insurer databases and property registration databases to see
who is allowing their insurance to lapse on their cars.

With such reform, PIP coverage would be highly effective and become the main source of
payment of all the bills of most accident victims in Florida.

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