Insurers, physicians square off over Personal Injury Protection revisions

TRENTON – Insurers tout cost-containment. Physicians fear service cuts.

Supporters and opponents of the proposed changes the state Department of Banking and Insurance wants to make to the field of Personal Injury Protection testified today at a packed hearing before the Assembly Financial Institutions Committee.

Among the regulation changes sought by Banking and Insurance regarding PIP are a five-day limit on filing appeals and an expanded medical fee schedule.

Insurance companies said the revised regulations could help keep them from moving out of state.

Supporters, such as New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance, said the regulations sought by Banking and Insurance will help contain costs. The company, which has 425,000 customers, said that in recent years, premium hikes have been mostly the result of high PIP cases.

Mike Van Wagner, who spoke on behalf of the company, said an expanded fee schedule will “eliminate very costly arbitration” by devoting more money toward treating injured people.

Many of the insurance companies that testified described the current PIP reimbursement rates as generous. Assemblywoman Denise Coyle, (R-16), Basking Ridge, termed them “significant.”

Not everyone saw the proposed changes in a positive light.

Several medical professionals such as doctors and chiropractors said the proposed regulations would either cut the level of services or end reimbursements for certain procedures that are presently covered.

Dr. Steven Clark of the Association of New Jersey Chiropractors said the rules “could restrict patient care.”

Jackie Cornell of New Jersey Citizen Action said the five-day limit to file appeals could prove “onerous” for working individuals.

Committee chairman Gary Schaer, (D-36), of Passaic, during a break in the testimony, said the hearing has been “extremely positive” with both sides voicing strong points. He declined to say what his position was on the regulations.