By Julie Patel, Sun-Sentinel
July 21, 2011
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater named Robin Westcott, an attorney who leads a state fraud task force, as the state's new Insurance Consumer Advocate.
In recent years, the advocate's office has fought insurers' rate hikes, pushed to release information and consumer complaints on companies and kept track of trends such as fees charged by some insurers' affiliates that can drain claims-paying reserves.
Westcott has called out insurers charging excessive fees and obtained critical data from companies on auto insurance and sinkhole coverage, according to Atwater's office.
Westcott said her first goal is to tackle "cost drivers," or insurers' costs related to claims and other expenses that can drive up premiums for automobile and property insurance policies.
A law passed this year backed by the insurance industry aims to address some of those cost drivers, such as high costs of sinkhole and hurricane claims.
“I am excited and committed to ensuring Florida’s consumers have the best products at the most competitive prices," Westcott said in a statement. Westcott will continue in her job as executive director of the state's Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force.
Atwater said Westcott "will be an ardent, outspoken and persistent advocate for Florida’s insurance consumers."
“She is committed to holding insurance companies accountable and to ensuring consumers get exactly what they pay for and are protected from fraud and abuse. She has seen firsthand the tactics used to game the system and simply won’t stand for it," he wrote in a statement.
Westcott spent about 14 years working at state insurance regulation offices, first in the division that rehabilitates and liquidates troubled insurers and more recently as an acting deputy commissioner overseeing the property and casualty market.
She also worked for several years at a private law firm and as an assistant general counsel for the Agency for Workforce Innovation.
Sean Shaw, the former Insurance Consumer Advocate, was appointed by Alex Sink, Atwater's predecessor, and left the job in late 2010 to work for Merlin law firm in Tampa.