Dear Florida Residents,
It is with great disappointment that I write this public service announcement. However, if you drive in the state of Florida, you need to be aware of this information and the changes for 2013 that have taken place. Last year, our state government decided to take a crack at PIP (personal injury protection) or auto accident insurance reform. Although PIP reform is needed to prevent the fraud and abuse in our system, our politicians may not be the most qualified to make these decisions for Florida's residents. (Especially when special interest groups (insurance companies) are pushing the bill and enticing politician's vote with donation money - yes, it happens.) Florida's politicians passed an insurance friendly PIP reform bill and these changes will affect you, the accident victim.
At the time this PSA is being written, Jan. 04, 2013, these changes are new, and with any new bill passed, there are many unknowns and items and verbiage written that most have no understanding about the law or how it will impact us until it starts being tested.
These changes are outlined below:
If you are involved in an auto accident, you must seek treatment or evaluation of your injuries within two weeks from your accident date. If you do not have your case documented by a medical physician, within the two week period, you have no auto accident benefits available. That's it. Case closed. (Dr. side note: Here's the problem, over the twenty years in private practice and hundreds of accident cases treated, often times these type injuries may not produce significant symptoms for several weeks to several months after the injury occurred, especially in low impact collisions. The neck or back misalignment or spinal curve changes from the accident, which may not initially show symptoms. Soft tissues may be sore, but not much pain, until the misalignment or curve change finally starts causing dysfunction and then significant pain will occur. However, with the new law, if you have not been evaluated within the two week period following the accident, you have no option for insurance coverage to treat for the injury under your auto benefits. Lesson: seek medical evaluation to document your injury regardless of your pain levels or symptoms at the time of you accident. If your family doctor will not see you or take your case, please contact our office as we have a medical doctor that we have worked with for years that will evaluate you immediately or you can goto our local emergency room. However, emergency room visits tend to be expensive and may exhaust your PIP benefits, leave this for absolutely necessary reasons, i.e.. severe injury.)
You can still see a chiropractic physician following your injury within the two week period following your injury. However, your insurance benefits will be capped at $2,500 for your care. If you see a medical doctor OR have an emergency room visit, and receive treatment for an "emergency medical condition" (we are still not sure what this means and what diagnosis this will entail, we'll just have to wade through it as we learn more as time goes on and more cases are treated) you may have the benefit of access to your $10,000 in paid coverage. (Dr. side note: Here's the problem, we are paying for a minimum $10,000 of PIP coverage under Florida state law, but we are now being limited to $2,500 in benefits unless the insurance company deems a case "emergency medical condition". Lesson: get evaluated within two weeks by a medical doctor or seek emergency room attention following your accident. Also, as mentioned above, we have a medical doctor that we have worked with for years that will evaluate you.
There are no longer any benefits for massage therapy or acupuncture type treatment in any office or through any provider. The insurance company decided these treatments will not be paid by your policy. (Dr. side note: this is unfortunate for Florida residents as both of these therapies have been utilized in practices across the country with great results. Whiplash injuries often include soft tissue damage and to deny access to theses treatment modalities is a disservice to those patients' injured.
These are the major PIP changes that a patient needs to understand. There are other changes that affect the physicians practice and business policies behind the scenes. Please make sure to remember one important thing, if you find yourself involved in an auto accident, please seek treatment for your injuries within the two week period to ensure your benefits are protected. I will update this information as more about this very insurance friendly bill is revealed.
Dr. Oliverio and Staff