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Atwater finally names new insurance consumer advocate

By Christine Jordan Sexton, Florida Current

July 21, 2011

Six months after taking office Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater finally named a new insurance consumer advocate.

Atwater announced on Wednesday that he is giving the job to Robin Westcott, an attorney who is already executive director of a task force working on Medicaid fraud.

Westcott had been an acting deputy commissioner during a nearly four-year tenure in the Office of Insurance Regulation prior to going to work for Atwater this past March. She also spent seven years working for the Florida Department of Insurance between 1993 and 2001.

Westcott will earn $105,000 in her post which is what she was already earning in her job.

"Robin will be an ardent, outspoken and persistent advocate for Florida's insurance consumers," Atwater said in a statement. "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."

Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty praised the hiring of Westcott.

"I have had the pleasure of working with Robin in several capacities, and believe that her abilities and experience make her well-suited for this position,'' McCarty said. "Robin is a respected professional in the insurance industry nationally, with a solid understanding of the Florida insurance marketplace."

The position of insurance consumer advocate had been held on an interim basis by Terry Butler since last September when Sean Shaw stepped down from the job to work on the campaign of Alex Sink. Sink, who had been chief financial officer, lost to Rick Scott in the governor's race.

Shaw, who now works for the Merlin Law Group in Tampa, said he was glad that "the CFO finally appointed someone permanent."

"It's a very important job and Floridians need someone in there fighting for them,'' Shaw said.

Atwater initially took applications for the job back in January but months went by before he made a final decision. Westcott's name was not on the original list of applicants obtained by the Florida Tribune.

Alexis Lambert, a spokeswoman for Atwater, said that interviews were conducted from the initial pool and that "a qualified applicant was not identified."

"As a current employee, Robin expressed interest in the position and submitted an application,'' Lambert said.

Gary Fineout contributed to this story.