If you live in Florida long enough, you know that certain words mean trouble's brewing.
Like "Category 5."
Well, here's another: "Reform."
Any time a Tallahassee politician says it, you're also in harm's way.
Especially when it comes to insurance.
The latest "reform" push has legislators vowing to crack down on auto-insurance fraud.
Sounds fair, right?
Only, here's the problem: Instead of cracking down on the fraudsters, they crack down on you.
They reduce your coverage. They make it harder for you to file claims or find a lawyer. They even try to limit the kind of medical care you can receive.
It may be true that fraudsters are soaking the system. But the "reform" lawmakers propose has you — the law-abiding, premium-paying citizen — paying the price.
Most of us, after all, simply pay our premiums and rarely, if ever, file a claim.
But if you ever try, the proposal in the Florida House would make it more difficult for you to access your compensation.
Among other things, House members want to deny you coverage for any injury you might sustain — unless you quickly seek help in an emergency room or urgent-care clinic. If you want to see your own doctor, your coverage drops.
This penalizes people like me (and most of you, I imagine) who don't immediately run to lawyers or ER rooms every time they get a hangnail.
People who, after an accident, think: OK, I'm a little sore. But I don't need to clog up the ER room asking for a bunch of X-rays I probably don't need.
If that's you, I'd call you prudent.
The state House, however, would call you a sucker.
Because if you don't go to an urgent-care clinic or some other state-approved health facility within seven days, you'll be denied coverage later on.
Yes, in a country where health-care costs are soaring — often because of unnecessary and unnecessarily expensive treatments — these lawmakers want to send everyone running to the ER or doctor.
Supposedly, the idea is to crack down on fraud.
But here's a novel idea: Why not actually do that?
Why not actually crack down on the crooked pain clinics and scam artists?
That's why insurance companies have fraud investigators. It's why our state has an attorney general.
Heck, we even elect and pay CFO Jeff Atwater to run the state's "Fraud and Consumer Protection" division.
Atwater announced arrests at one "fraud clinic" just this week. Good. How about more of that — and less of making it tougher on us?
Unfortunately, sticking it to everyday Floridians is the new status quo.
Remember last year when insurance companies started whining about how many people were faking sinkhole claims? Instead of cracking down on the fakers, they started talking about stripping the sinkhole coverage from your policy.
We see the same thing with Medicare and Medicaid.
Politicians whine about "fraud." Yet instead of going after the fraudsters — some of whom are the big hospitals and health-care companies that fund their campaigns — the politicians cut payments to people who really need it.
Sticking it to the people, after all, is much easier.
You don't write big campaign checks. Heck, most of you don't even pay attention.
It has to end.
Florida's state senators must stop the nonsense in the House.
Crack down on the bad guys — and stop making law-abiding, premium-paying residents pay the price.
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