During week six of the 2019 legislative session, the House passed a bill that would address an assignment of benefits issue that has plagued Florida’s insurance industry for years. But as a change was made that some say may cause more abuse of the system.
“There are areas where florida can do better. I hope the legislature passes legislation to reform the issue of AOB, which has really degenerate into a racket," said Governor Ron DeSantis.
The House did its part in fulfilling a wish Governor Ron Desantis made on the first day of session. The chamber passed a bill that closes a loophole in the assignment of insurance benefits process or AOB.
For those that don’t know what an AOB is assignment of benefit. It’s when a policy holder enters into a contract. Usually with a contractor who then actually stands in their shoes and directly negotiates to the insurance company for repairs and payments," said Rep. Bob Rommel (R-Naples)
Rommel sponsors legislation that would make several changes to AOB as it relates to homeowners’ insurance.
He recently removed a provision in the bill that would’ve included the auto glass industry.
“Talking to different stakeholders were just not quite right there for whether we need a legislative fix or the free market will fix the auto glass portion. Already we’ve seen a decrease this year of about 10% on the auto glass portion. There are concerns on both sides of where that may go so I’m not sure we’re really ready for a legislative fix on that right now," said Rommel.
But Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis thinks something should be done now. He explains how the bad actors are going about business.
“They’ve created this business model where they stop individuals. You got a chip in your windshield yeah I do or maybe I don’t. well they’ll come out and inspect your car. Well look your about to walk into Publix anyways to buy your groceries. Let me give you a $200 Publix gift card and while you’re buying your groceries Ima go ahead and change out your windshield," said Patronis.
Patronis says it’s the only insurance business where people offer a cash incentive in order to gain business. That windshield repairmen will first get you to sign an AOB, which allows him to then enter into litigation without your consent. This happened to Kathryn Wallace an Orange City resident.
“Then I got a phone call saying do you realize that your suing this insurance company in your name because you signed a paper. And I said no I didn’t know what, I wasn’t aware of it, I didn’t want to sue my insurance company, I was happy with the work that they did," said Wallace.
It no longer mattered what she wanted, once she signed the Assignment of Benefit she gave away all control.
Logan McFaddin, the Regional Manager of State Government Affairs for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association says the solicitation and lack of notification a policy holder gets is the problem.
"The fact that you are being offered an incentive whether it’s a gift card or a box of frozen steaks, to sign away your benefits to a third party who then sues the insurance company and you don’t even know as the consumer. I think that’s more of our concern," said McFaddin
McFaddin is hopeful that with the weeks left in session that the provision including the auto glass industry could be added back. A senate version of the bill still includes the auto glass portion and is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday.