Injunction Update: Medical Providers Fight Back!
As we have mentioned here before at PIP Guru, an injunction was entered by Florida Second Circuit Judge Terry Lewis back in March which put the implementation of the new PIP Statute on hold. The new statute, signed into law by Governor Rick Scott back in May of 2013, excludes massage therapists and acupuncturists from billing PIP benefits, caps chiropractic care at $2,500.00 in the absence of an “emergency condition”, and forces anyone injured in an auto accident to seek treatment within two weeks of the wreck or be barred from receiving treatment.
The new statute not only discriminates against medical providers, but Judge Lewis’ opinion also states that the law violates the constitutionally-protected due process rights of massage therapists and acupuncturists. By not allowing acupuncturists and massage therapists to bill under the Statute, argues Judge Lewis, the new PIP law denies those providers access to the court systems in violation of their due process rights. Even with the weight of the Florida Legislature and the insurance industry behind it, medical providers and PIP advocates in Florida have refused to back down from the argument that the new statute is unconstitutional.
On September 17th, 2013, both sides of the debate presented oral arguments that were held in the Florida First District Court of Appeal. State Solicitor General Allen Winsor, appearing on behalf of the State of Florida, argued that the injunction should be lifted because the medical providers did not have standing to challenge the new law. Standing is a legal concept that basically tests whether the parties involved in a lawsuit are the correct ones. If a party to a lawsuit lacks standing, they don’t have any real interest in the outcome of the lawsuit and the suit should be dismissed. State Solicitor Winsor went on to say that the injunction should be dismissed because it is not specific enough to be complied with.
Representing medical providers, attorneys for Florida’s PIP Legal Defense Fund argued that they had standing to bring suit because without medical providers doing their jobs, accident victims would have no basis to present a case. In terms of standing, the medical providers have an interest in the case because they provided the services that the insurance companies are refusing to pay for. When insurance companies fail to fully reimburse medical providers, the providers obviously lose money and time. Those losses amount to a real interest in the outcome of the case, and the medical providers therefore should have standing to sue. While the issues presented in this round of oral arguments dealt mainly with standing and not the constitutionality of the new PIP statute, the appellate panel’s decision could have serious impacts on the future of PIP and the rights of medical providers going forward.
While it is impossible to know exactly how the appellate panel will rule on the injunction, it has been suggested that insurance companies played a major role in changing the PIP statute. No matter what the outcome, you can rest assured that we here at PIP Guru will continue to fight the unfair changes in the new PIP statute. If you have any questions about the injunction, the new PIP statute, or PIP law in general, contact us at 1-800-Accident or 305-821-3100.