Governor Scott comes to Tampa to discuss the car insurance fraud crises

State law requires motorists to have personal injury protection (PIP) that typically provides $10,000 per person for medical bills, regardless of who is at fault. That's led to it becoming the most common fraud in the state, with phony victims paid a few hundred bucks to use certain clinics to collect that 10K.

The county's new ordinance requires PIP medical providers to obtain a license, and is defined as any person, clinic, or other business that received 50 percent of their patients in the form of referrals that they directly or indirectly pay for. The ordinance also defines a PIP medical provider as any person or clinic whose PIP clients accounted for 90 percent of their gross income or bills insurers more than $200,000 in PIP claims annually.

Commissioner Beckner, one of only two Democrats on the Board, told the group that everybody with the county "put their ideology aside" to tackle the problem, while working with local law enforcement focused on crafting an ordinance. But he said he got a taste of what it must be like in Tallahassee when he and his colleagues on the board received pressure from lobbyists and attorneys who currently are profiting from such fraud.

Around the room there was plenty of first person testimonials given about what PIP fraud is doing to radically raise local car insurance rates, with some people begging Governor Scott and CFO Atwater to address the issue as soon as possible.

One by one they went, until the last man given a chance to speak, Austin Curry, the Executive Director with Elder Care Advocacy of Florida had his moment.

"This is not a victimless crime," Keary began, saying that everyone in the state is paying in higher insurance rates due to PIP fraud. He asked that the penalties be increased for those found guilty of such fraud, saying that in addition to incarceration, doctors who are involved should have their license revoked for a minimum of five years. "We have got address this thing," he implored. "It's going to spread like caner over Florida. This is a money making scheme. It's organized crime, and i want your promise to do something about this," he told Scott and Atwater. "It's killing the state!"

Governor Scott said that people should contact their representatives in Tallahassee, saying that their individual stories would have maximum impact with them.

"We're going to get something done in Tallahassee," he promised them.

  • CFO Jeff Atwater, Governor Scott, Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee and Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott in Tampa

Over the past few years, Tampa has become ground zero for PIP (personal injury protection) fraud, with the result being radical rate hikes for auto insurance consumers in Hillsborough County (Update:the area is second in the state behind Miami, and third in the nation now in faked accidents).

Last year alone officials say there were 487 questionable claims and staged traffic accidents in Tampa, while Florida ranks tops in auto insurance fraud.

Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin Beckner began investigating the problem in the summer of 2010 and worked with officials in the Sheriff's Department to address the issue. But because the problem is state wide, he deferred any legislative action this past spring, presumably after the Florida Legislature would address the problem.

But they didn't, which then pushed the County to pass their own ordinance earlier this year.

Wednesday in Tampa, Governor Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, county officials as well as local citizens who have been adversely affected by PIP fraud, met for a roundtable discussion at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office in Ybor City.

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