Cutting rampant fraud in automobile and sinkhole insurance should be two of the Florida Legislature's top priorities this winter, state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater told St. Petersburg business leaders Wednesday.
Reforming or eliminating the personal injury protection insurance, or no-fault, system could be tough, though. Companies that rely on no-fault insurance for payment, including many chiropractors and accident clinics, are likely to fight any move to abolish it, Atwater acknowledged.
"I expect everybody that's had a seat at the trough to fight desperately to keep their seat at the trough," he said.
Atwater gave a breakfast speech Wednesday to members of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce at downtown's Hotel Indigo. As CFO, Atwater oversees the state's treasury and employee pension system and investigates insurance fraud, among other duties.
He's especially pushing the Legislature to tackle insurance fraud when members meet in Tallahassee in January, which also is a priority for Gov. Rick Scott. Miami historically was the capital of automobile insurance fraud in Florida, but the Tampa Bay area now has more staged auto accidents than Miami or anywhere else in the state, he said.
That translates into higher insurance premiums, he said. In 2008, a 40-year-old female in Tampa would have paid around $330 per year for the PIP portion of her insurance premium. That same person would have paid around $580 for the PIP portion this year, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.
Meantime, Atwater urged the Legislature to target sinkhole insurance fraud, which is forcing the board of Citizens Property Insurance to consider premium increases of 400 percent for sinkhole coverage. People in sinkhole-prone areas could see even higher increases.