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Massage Today
September, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 09

Florida Legislative Update

FL Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Auto Accident Law Now In Effect

By Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT

In addition to medical groups, health clinics, mobile diagnostic services and chiropractors, I and a few massage therapists have donated approximately $10,000 to the fight to overturn this law that discriminates against massage therapists and acupuncturists.

We have formed the Florida PIP Defense Fund and we have engaged the services of a highly qualified, well respected, Constitutional and First Amendment Rights Attorney, Luke Lirot who is putting together a thorough complaint and legal challenge embracing all the constitutional issues of the now current law.

"While Insurance companies might be able to pick and choose medical providers, treatments and so forth, the State cannot," said Lirot. "If, as the Governor alleges, the high costs to insurers is due to fraud in the PIP system, why then eliminate an entire field of medical providers? Why not go specifically to the fraudulent activity and attack the ones perpetrating the fraud? It is totally unreasonable, unjustifiable, arbitrary and overreaching to eliminate a whole profession of medical providers. Was it just because massage therapists and acupuncturists were the easiest to target?"

Negative Fallout

Florida - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Because of the passage of HB119, massage therapists have been excluded and denied the right to work and be paid for services they obtained specific training and licensing for. Patients have been denied their rights as well. They have been denied the right to choose medical providers or treatment of choice under the same policy other providers are accepted and reimbursed for. The legislators added physical therapists as providers when in fact they were already reimbursed for such services. In addition; physical therapists have within their scope of practice some of the exact same modalities and procedures that Florida licensed massage therapists have in theirs. Physicians have been denied the right to prescribe medically necessary treatment of choice to patients and they have been denied the right to choose a State Licensed Health Care Practitioner for referral of patients to receive soft tissue treatments for injury related conditions.

By the time this law is fully implemented, thousands of massage therapists jobs will be lost, some massage therapy schools will be closing and unemployment will rise even further. Potential Florida auto accident patients' (including LMT's, their family members and friends) will suffer without medically prescribed manual/soft tissue treatments paid for by their auto insurance, as has been the case for the past 28 years.

When is it in effect?

Many lawyers, doctors, therapists and even insurance adjusters are still in the dark. Some say that the law took place where massage therapists and acupuncturists are excluded as of July 1, 2012. Others say it is when the policyholder's policies renew. Some have renewed on July 1st, and others will renew as the year goes forward. Some say it doesn't go into effect until January 1, 2013, when almost all aspects of the law become effective. I say play it safe, look at the patient's policy, contact the insurance adjuster and document every detail of the conversation. If you work for other providers, try to receive payment at the end of the week and not when provider gets paid or else have a good solid contract in place to protect yourself.

Three versions of the final bill (House, Senate and Engrossed Bill) all state the effective date as July 1, 2012. Because of a major "glitch" in HB119 related to the licensing of AHCA clinics, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) released a statement basically requesting all insurers reimburse claims until January 1, 2013, but even the agency says it cannot override the law.

Are therapsits totally left out or is there a way to still treat auto accident cases? You will still be allowed to provide services for Time of Service (cash) fees. You can still bill MED-PAY if the patient has purchased that as part of their policy, but only when the $10,000 PIP money is exhausted. You can still accept attorney letters of protection (LOP's) after the $10,000 PIP money is exhausted. As always, a prescription from a treating physician will be necessary.

If you would like more information about the impacts of HB119, please visit www.flpipdefensefund.com.


Click here for more information about Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT.

 

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