I was excited on Friday when I learned about the March 15th, 2013 decision by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis. Judge Lewis granted the plaintiff's (a chiropractor) motion for a Temporary Injunction challenging the constitutionality of the 2012 PIP Act. This Act bars physical therapists, among other providers, from seeing auto accident victims without new, expensive and burdensome credentialing and licensing. Full details are available at the Florida Physical Therapy Association web site.
According to attorney's familiar with this case, Judge Lewis' order will have a wide-reaching impact in Florida. The following professions and conditions are specifically identified:
"1. Emergency Medical Condition - Judge Lewis' Order prohibits the use of an emergency medical condition as a prerequisite for payment of PIP benefits. This means that all Floridians will now benefit from the full $10,000 that they already have to pay for in PIP insurance coverage. This means that Chiropractic Physicians may primarily evaluate and treat those injured during motor vehicle crashes.
2. Licensed Massage Therapists - Judge Lewis' Order prohibits the denial of payment for benefits for services provided by Licensed Massage Therapists.
3. Acupuncture Physicians - Judge Lewis' Order prohibits the denial of payment for benefits for services provided by Acupuncture Physicians.
4. Chiropractic Physicians - Judge Lewis' Order prohibits the denial of payment for benefits for services provided by Chiropractic Physicians.
This lawsuit, challenging several provisions of the Florida Statutes, was filed in Leon County because that is where the State Agency in charge of enforcing these provisions resides.
Importantly - this grant of Temporary Injunction applies throughout the entire State of Florida. Although some suggest that it might only apply in Leon County - that result makes little sense and would require that any statutory challenge be filed independently in every County - regardless of whether the State Agency charged with enforcing that statute resided in that that County.
Although we certainly expect the State to appeal what we consider a well thought out, reasoned, and legally sufficient Judicial Order, the State's Appeal will be considered based upon an abuse of discretion - where the trial court would have had to abuse its discretion - something that will be difficult to prove given the large amount of data, briefing, and argument involved to date."An open question is how does Judge Lewis' decision impact physical therapists in private practice? Specifically, can we now treat our auto accident patients without running afoul of the 2012 PIP Act?
Two more reasons I got excited last week were two bills introduced in the State Legislature: SB 594 and HB 709. These bills exempt Federally-credentialed (Medicare) clinics from the 2012 PIP Act. The Senate bill won unanimous approval, 8-0, by the Health Policy Committee on March 20th but the House bill has not moved yet. According to Capitol insiders, the House bill needs to move now in order reach the Governor's desk by the end of session on May 3rd.
Further, these Capitol insiders don't expect Judge Lewis' Temporary Injunction to hold and physical therapists may not see relief in the 2013 legislative session.
"Keep up the pressure in your districts," they told me. "We've got a little momentum and some good media but we've still got a long ways to go."