2015 New Jersey Revised Statutes
Title 39 - MOTOR VEHICLES AND TRAFFIC REGULATION
Section 39:6A-1.1 - Short title; findings, declarations.
39:6A-1.1 Short title; findings, declarations.
1. a. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act."
b.The Legislature finds and declares:
Whereas, While New Jersey's automobile insurance no-fault law, enacted twenty-six years ago, has provided valuable benefits in the form of medical benefits and wage replacement benefits, without regard to fault, to New Jersey residents who have been injured in an automobile accident; and
Whereas, Medical benefits paid by no-fault policies over those years amount to billions of dollars, which would otherwise have been paid by health insurance, thus raising the cost of health insurance for everyone; and
Whereas, While medical benefits under no-fault insurance were unlimited under the law enacted in 1972, the rapidly escalating cost of those benefits made it necessary for the Legislature to reduce those benefits to a limit of $250,000 in 1990; and
Whereas, Since the enactment of the verbal threshold in 1988, the substantial increase in the cost of medical expense benefits indicates that the benefits are being overutilized for the purpose of gaining standing to sue for pain and suffering, thus undermining the limitations imposed by the threshold and necessitating the imposition of further controls on the use of those benefits, including the establishment of a basis for determining whether treatments or diagnostic tests are medically necessary; and
Whereas, The present arbitration system has not sufficiently addressed the Legislature's goal of eliminating payment for treatments and diagnostic tests which are not medically necessary, leading to the belief that a revised dispute resolution mechanism needs to be established which will accomplish this goal; and
Whereas, The principle underlying the philosophical basis of the no-fault system is that of a trade-off of one benefit for another; in this case, providing medical benefits in return for a limitation on the right to sue for non-serious injuries; and
Whereas, While the Legislature believes that it is good public policy to provide medical benefits on a first party basis, without regard to fault, to persons injured in automobile accidents, it recognizes that in order to keep premium costs down, the cost of the benefit must be offset by a reduction in the cost of other coverages, most notably a restriction on the right of persons who have non-permanent or non-serious injuries to sue for pain and suffering; and
Whereas, The high cost of automobile insurance in New Jersey has presented a significant problem for many-lower income residents of the state, many of whom have been forced to drop or lapse their coverage in violation of the State's mandatory motor vehicle insurance laws, making it necessary to provide a lower-cost option to protect people by providing coverage to pay their medical expenses if they are injured; and
Whereas, To meet these goals, this legislation provides for the creation of two insurance coverage options, a basic policy and a standard policy, provides for cost containment of medical expense benefits through a revised dispute resolution proceeding, provides for a revised lawsuit threshold for suits for pain and suffering which will eliminate suits for injuries which are not serious or permanent, including those for soft tissue injuries, would more precisely define the benefits available under the medical expense benefits coverage, and establishes standard treatment and diagnostic procedures against which the medical necessity of treatments reimbursable under medical expense benefits coverage would be judged; and
Whereas, It is generally recognized that fraud, whether in the form of inappropriate medical treatments, inflated claims, staged accidents, falsification of records, or in any other form, has increased premiums, and must be uncovered and vigorously prosecuted, and while the pursuit of those who defraud the automobile insurance system has heretofore been addressed by the State through various agencies, it has been without sufficient coordination to aggressively combat fraud, leading to the conclusion that greater consolidation of agencies which were created to combat fraud is necessary to accomplish this purpose; and
Whereas, With these many objectives, the Legislature nevertheless recognizes that to provide a healthy and competitive automobile insurance market, insurers are entitled to earn an adequate rate of return through the ratemaking process, which shall reflect the impact of the cost-saving provisions of this act and other recent legislative insurance reforms; and
Whereas, The Legislature has thus addressed these and other issues in this comprehensive legislation designed to preserve the no-fault system, while at the same time reducing unnecessary costs which drive premiums higher.
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