Two Florida Senate bills were ready to slash insurance fraud and excessive tort fees, but some legislators are letting them stall. A chance to halt increasing insurance costs would be squandered. And questionable medical claims and staged automobile injuries could continue with breakneck speed at the consumer’s peril and cost.
Florida subjects consumers to property and casualty insurance premiums that are 90% higher than the national average – and those premiums are under state price regulation. The prices are sky high because the costs are. Two major forces inflate costs in Florida, namely the incidence of claims, and the costs for settling claims. Tort attorneys who sue on behalf of claimants are allowed under Florida law to charge insurance companies at a rate two and a half times their normal fees. That adds a huge amount to the cost of settling a claim, and through price regulation those oversized fees inflate insurance premiums. The incidence of “accidents” is bloated with fraudulent claims, the most lurid example being cars full of whiplash “victims” in contrived car crashes who are “treated” with questionable medical care.
The two bills that are stalling would halt sticking consumers with high premiums. The current system just does a lame job ferreting out fraud that encourages higher settlement costs than necessary. No doubt the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee has important items to tackle on behalf of the consumer, but they can move fast when they want to and this item is too important not to. The vast majority of consumers, who are neither tort attorneys nor employed in insurance fraud, want sanity restored in their insurance premiums. Consumers deserve an active effort to get those bills up for vote.
Alan Daley is a retired businessman living in Florida. He follows public policy issues from the consumer’s perspective for the American Consumer Institute