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Florida CFO Jeff Atwater tells insurers to stop whining, reduce PIP premiums

ORLANDO — Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said Thursday that it's time for insurance companies to stop complaining and to lower premiums to reflect changes to the no-fault car insurance laws.

"I am comfortable that if assaults on the courts are unsuccessful and the bill can stand, there will be more than 25 percent savings," Atwater said. "We don't have to gnash about it, argue about it, whine about it or cry about it."

Under the old system, the average personal injury protection insurance claim is $12,900, Atwater said during a presentation at the Florida Chamber of Commerce's Annual Insurance Summit. That included $4,400 in acupuncture, $3,700 for massage therapy, $3,200 to chiropractors and $1,600 for emergency room costs.

The new law, HB 119, restricts acupuncturists and massage therapists from participating in PIP and requires people injured in a car accident to be diagnosed with an emergency medical condition before they are eligible for the full $10,000 benefit.

"We just eliminated 68 percent of that cost," Atwater told the group.

In order to get a bill passed on the last day of the session, legislators agreed to insert some cost protections. Insurance companies were required to submit new rate filings by Oct. 1 that either reduced PIP premiums by 10 percent or explain why they cannot. They are also expected to lower PIP by 25 percent by 2014.

So far, the actual numbers from insurance companies are falling short of that initial goal.

Of the 44 rate filings that have been approved by the state's Office of Insurance Regulation by mid-month, the average PIP savings is 2.5 percent. That reflects about a fourth of the 141 filings from companies selling all types of car insurance, with the rest still under review.

The numbers that insurers submitted vary wildly, said Sandra Starnes, the OIR's director of property and casualty product review, during a separate presentation at the Insurance Summit. Some companies said they will reduce PIP by as much as 25 percent, while the biggest requested increase is 41 percent.

Although the 2.5 percent average is less than the Legislature's target, it should be applauded, Starnes said.

"The straight average was provided to show that while the range of rate changes being approved varies significantly from company to company, the majority of the filings are resulting in overall statewide decreases in PIP premiums and all of the companies are recognizing the significant decreases in losses that are expected due to HB 119," she later added via email.

Atwater told conference attendees that they shouldn't have been taken by surprise that lawmakers built some cost-saving guarantees into the PIP law.

"After all the failures in the past, I think somebody would have to really be just a little naive to not think that the Legislature would want to put some aspirational numbers out there," he said.

Tia Mitchell can be reached at tmitchell@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater tells insurers to stop whining, reduce PIP premiums 11/29/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:46pm]
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