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Hospital Coalition Says Governor's No-Fault Bill Signing Provides a 'Great Protection' for Florida Consumers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Oct. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida's hospitals and the Coalition to Protect Florida's Drivers lauded Governor Charlie Crist for signing a bill today to restore no-fault auto insurance, calling it a "great protection" for all consumers, especially those injured in auto accidents.

Governor Crist's signing into law of CS/HB 13C means Florida's no-fault auto insurance system, and mandatory Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, will be restored on January 1, 2008. Until then, all Florida motorists are still required to carry mandatory Property Damage (PD) coverage, which will continue to be strictly enforced.

Today, 40 percent of all car crash victims in Florida who are treated at hospital emergency rooms have no health insurance and, for many, PIP is their only coverage. By extending no-fault and mandatory PIP, Governor Crist and the Legislature have assured that all motorists will be required to carry some medical coverage if hurt in a crash.

"PIP is a great protection for Floridians, especially because one in every four people under the age of 65 in our state have absolutely no health insurance," said Wayne NeSmith, President of the Florida Hospital Association and a Coalition leader.

Additionally, the restoration of PIP means that Florida's fragile trauma care network and emergency room physicians will be assured of some reimbursement for treating victims of car crashes.

"Florida's trauma care network today is struggling from a shortage of emergency care specialists and from the financial burden of providing billions of dollars in care annually to people who either cannot or will not pay for their treatment," said Tony Carvalho, President of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida and another Coalition leader. "Restoring PIP helps Florida's trauma centers to carry out their crucial, life-saving mission."

Meanwhile, restoring the no-fault system means that Floridians will face fewer uninsured motorists on state roads. Additionally, health insurance premiums will not increase by picking up PIP-related medical costs, and there will not be a surge of lawsuits that was expected if Florida permanently returned to a system in which fault had to be determined in every auto accident.

"Drivers should talk to their insurance agents now to make sure that they are adequately protected during this transition period leading to the restoration of no-fault," said Dan Tarantin, CEO of Direct General Insurance Company, a leading Florida auto insurer and Coalition member. "It is important for drivers to have coverage that protects both people and property if they are to be adequately protected in the event of an accident."

Florida's hospitals and the Coalition again thanked Governor Crist, Senate President Ken Pruitt, House Speaker Marco Rubio, and the two lead negotiators on the no-fault extension bill - Senator Bill Posey and Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff - for their tireless efforts to produce a compromise that safeguards consumers.

Additionally, the Florida Hospital Association and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida thanked the nearly 40 organizations that joined the Coalition to Protect Florida's Drivers this summer to advocate for the reform and extension of no-fault auto insurance.

The Coalition included Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Direct General Insurance Company, the Florida Fire Chief's Association, the Florida College of Emergency Physicians, the Florida Safety Council, and a number of other insurers, first responders, and medical professionals.

SOURCE Florida Hospital Association; Safety Net Hospital Allianceof
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