Auto Insurance Fraud Strike Force Internet Site - Read more

From Trevor Mask, Colodny Law firm and PCI

(See Clips for Atwater criticism of auto insurers over PIP rate review.)

On Tuesday, August 7, 2012, the Automobile Insurance Fraud Strike Force (Strike Force) met in Tallahassee for its first meeting.  The Strike Force was created by the legislature in 2012 and is outlined in section 626.9895, F.S.   The sole purpose of the Strike Force is to support the prosecution, investigation, and prevention of motor vehicle insurance fraud.  Members of the Strike Force include insurance industry representatives, State Attorneys, law enforcement representatives, health care representatives, and lawyers.

Jeff Atwater (Florida Chief Financial Officer) provided brief opening remarks.  He welcomed everyone and noted this meeting is merely organizational in nature to set up the Strike Force.  The focus of the Strike Force is to ensure consumers are getting the value of recent legislative changes to the Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") insurance system.

As noted above, the meeting was primarily administrative.  It included introductions; a review of the sunshine law and public records requirements; a review of the authorizing statue, a review of the contracts and by-laws.  The Strike Force is being set up as a 501(c)(3) not profit corporation.  A review of the steps necessary to qualify as a tax exempt entity was provided.  Further, the contract was signed and officers were appointed.

Dan Anderson (Director, Division of Insurance Fraud) provided an overview of their activities.  Notably, PIP arrests for fraud have increased significantly in the last year.  

CFO Atwater appointed Pete Antinochi as Chair of the Strike Force.  Housekeeping matters were then discussed.  The By-Laws were adopted without objection.  The Contract was adopted without objection.  Donovan Brown (PCI Counsel) was elected as Vice Chairman of the Strike Force and Lauren Facemire was elected Treasurer.   

The next meeting is scheduled at a time to be determined, likely in December 2012.
Atwater to auto insurers: Quit whining
The Florida Current, 08/07/2012 - 05:57 PM
Gray Rohrer

CFO Jeff Atwater thinks auto insurers should get on board with rate reductions and “quit whining.”

“Quit the whining. This is about your consumers; it’s not about you,” Atwater told reporters Tuesday after the first meeting of a strike force aimed at rooting out auto insurance fraud.

The strike force is part of a bill passed by lawmakers this year that was designed to clamp down on personal injury protection (PIP) fraud. HB 119 keeps in place the $10,000 PIP coverage for medical coverage resulting from an auto accident, but places a $2,500 cap on non-emergency coverage, eliminates massages and chiropractic services from covered care, requires patients to seek care within two weeks of an incident, and calls for those involved in accidents to give testimony  under oath.

The law also calls for a report to be compiled detailing the expected cost savings to be gained from the law. The final report is to be submitted to legislators by Sept. 15, but a draft report was distributed to the press last week, and initial results show that a 12 to 20 percent reduction in the PIP portion of auto insurance premiums is expected.

Industry groups and the Office of Insurance Regulation, however, urged caution in interpreting the draft report, stressing that the savings will only be realized on the PIP portion of the premium -- about 20 percent of a typical auto policy -- and stipulating that the savings from the law will only mitigate rate hikes, not lead to actual reductions.

“PCI has some concerns with the study’s conclusions and the fact that it is based on a law which does not fully take effect until next year and may be interpreted by a court differently than the Florida Legislature intended," said Donovan Brown, state government relations counsel for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, in a prepared statement after the draft report was released. "However, we believe this is a good start in discussing what the 2012 PIP legislation, when fully in place, could potentially accomplish in reducing fraud.”

Brown is also on the auto insurance fraud strike force and was elected vice chairman of that board Tuesday.

Brown said his statement was meant to point out that the report was an initial draft and that many of the law's provisions don't take effect until Jan. 1. Plus, the law could be knocked around by the courts, he said.

"We know the trial attorneys are going to be challenging a lot of these provisions," he said. "Let's let the bill take effect and let's see what our experience is."

But that’s not how the law was described when it was being pushed through the Legislature by Atwater and Gov. Rick Scott.

“We passed (a) property insurance PIP reform bill that is going to lower the cost of auto insurance for all Floridians. We are going to get rid of this fraud,” Scott said in March when the bill passed through the Senate on a narrow 21-19 vote on the final day of the legislative session.

Atwater acknowledged it probably won’t be until next year when new license requirements for clinics take effect that consumers will see real savings. However, he  took insurers to task for not embracing cost reductions that he thinks will result from the new law.

“This entire PIP effort was to reduce the cost burden on Floridians, and the insurance industry came to these committee meetings, they lobbied these legislators, saying ‘You’ve got to make these changes so that we can help our customers.’ Well, no sooner than suggested reductions come out and everybody starts running for cover. I’m kind of stunned at what I’m reading,” Atwater said.