Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has signed a bill to reinstate no-fault auto insurance, effective in January 2008, a move applauded by hospitals and health insurers.
The Sunshine States 36-year-old law requiring drivers to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection insurance, or PIP, expired on Oct. 1. PIP covers injured motorists regardless of who is at fault in an accident.
About 40% of car crash victims in Florida who are treated at hospital emergency rooms have no health insurance, so PIP is their only coverage, according to the Florida Hospital Association. Without PIP, hospitals and insurers estimate that unfunded medical costs in the state could total $350 million a year, including $140 million in direct costs that hospitals would have to absorb.
For the next 2½ months, however, motorists arent required to have PIP. Instead, the insurer of the driver responsible for the accident would pay the medical costs of those injured. Recouping costs can require hospitals and physician groups to get involved in legal disputes between two drivers over who is at fault.
Without PIP, hospitals would have to seek payments through lawsuits, said Rich Rasmussen, spokesman for the Florida Hospital Association.
State Farm and other auto insurers opposed reinstating no-fault insurance saying that it was expensive for motorists and often duplicative to their health insurance. Currently, 11 states require motorists to carry no-fault auto insurance. -- by Rebecca Vesely
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