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Hospital-led Coalition Cautions Motorists on New Risks October 1, Lauds Legislative Leaders for Scheduling No-fault Hearings Next Week

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Sept. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida's hospitals and the Coalition to Protect Florida's Drivers cautioned the state's motorists that they may face new exposure risks if involved in a car crash when no-fault auto insurance expires on Monday.

However, the Coalition applauded Governor Charlie Crist, Senate President Ken Pruitt, House Speaker Marco Rubio, and the two leader negotiators in each chamber-Senator Bill Posey and Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff-for their efforts to reform and extend the 36-year-old no-fault system. The Coalition praised Senate and House leaders for introducing no-fault reform bills and scheduling workshops on Tuesday, a day before the start of the special session.

"Unfortunately, many Florida drivers may find themselves dangerously exposed to new personal liability in crashes when Florida returns to a fault-based system Monday morning," said Wayne NeSmith, President of the Florida Hospital Association and a coalition leader. "The only way for Florida to ensure that drivers and their families are adequately protected is to require drivers to carry some minimum mandatory coverage for both people and property."

"With this in mind, we are urgently calling on the Legislature now to add no-fault to the special session and to pass a bill that achieves these important public safeguards," NeSmith added.

Direct General Insurance Company, a leading nonstandard auto insurer in Florida and a coalition member, is urging motorists to contact their insurance agents immediately to determine if they are adequately protected when no-fault expires.

"The compromise bill being considered next week by legislators is important for Florida's motorists," said Dan Tarantin, CEO of Direct General Insurance Company. "Legislators should understand that preserving the no-fault system in the special session means there will be fewer uninsured drivers on Florida's roads, the state's roads will be safer, and the cost of auto insurance will not go up because of the sunset of Personal Injury Protection."

Florida's hospitals and the coalition dispute claims being made by State Farm and other national auto insurers that eliminating the no-fault system and PIP (Personal Injury Protection) will lead to big savings for drivers.

In fact, separate analyses conducted recently by both The Miami Herald and Florida's hospitals found that auto insurance costs will likely increase-not decrease-if no-fault goes away, as drivers will need to purchase or increase Bodily Injury and Uninsured Motorist coverage to be adequately protected. Additionally, drivers who lack separate health insurance would need to buy new Medical Payments coverage for their auto policies-or they would be without any coverage whatsoever if injured in a car crash.

"Florida's no-fault system and PIP are incredibly important protections for our state's citizens, especially when you consider that today, one in four Floridians under age 65 have no health insurance," said Tony Carvalho, President of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. "Today, 40 percent of all car crash victims treated in hospital emergency rooms have no health insurance. For many of these victims, PIP is their only protection."

"Besides increasing auto insurance costs over time, the expiration of no- fault would also cause health insurance premiums to rise, as costs for injuries are shifted from auto to health policies," Carvalho said. "Florida would also see a surge in uninsured drivers and an escalation in lawsuits over auto accidents as fault would have to be determined in every crash," according to Carvalho.

Addressing no-fault in the special session also means Florida can avoid becoming one of only three states in the country that do not require drivers to carry any minimum medical protection. Today, only New Hampshire and Wisconsin have no minimum coverage requirements for motorists.

SOURCE Florida Hospital Association; Safety Net Hospital Allianceof
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