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My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

During 2014, my dedicated team here at the Department of Financial Services recovered and returned more than $287 million to Floridians. Since I took office as your CFO, my highest priority is to make sure that your hard-earned money stays with you, and my team works every day on your behalf to return back to you what’s rightfully yours.

These returns were made possible by investigative and consumer-driven efforts led by our Divisions of Agent & Agency Services and Consumer Services, along with the Bureau of Unclaimed Property.

Agent and Agency BadgeWhen our Division of Agent & Agency Services investigates allegations of illegal conduct by Florida’s licensed insurance professionals, they sometimes find that money is owed back to consumers that had been improperly collected. Either by proactively securing a settlement agreement with the licensee involved, or by advocating for repayment directly from the insurance company on behalf of the consumer, the division works to ensure that the consumer is made whole. Last year, they were successfully able to secure more than $1 million through this process, and more than a third of this amount was returned to Florida’s seniors.

Consumer Services LogoOur Division of Consumer Services operates our Consumer Helpline that stands ready and able to assist consumers with insurance-related questions and concerns. Last year, they handled nearly 121,000 calls from Floridians who requested the department’s assistance on an insurance claim-related matter. By serving as a liaison between the consumer and the insurance company when such concerns arise, the department was able to secure the return of more than $25.2 million that was not initially paid out by the insurer. This money was returned to nearly 5,600 consumers.

In one such instance, a consumer contacted the Helpline for assistance in resolving a claim filed with his insurance company for water damage to his home. The consumer felt he was not paid the required benefits under his policy, and the division contacted the insurer on the consumer’s behalf to determine why the claim was not paid. The division’s helpline experts determined that the insurance company failed to pay the consumer the undisputed amount within 90 days, which is a policyholder’s right as outlined in the Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights – a measure I supported last year that requires insurers to provide factual information about the claims process when a claim is filed.

As a result of their involvement on the consumer’s behalf, the division was able to recover more than $80,000 for the consumer. In addition, the division referred the claim to the Office of Insurance Regulation for further review due to the insurance company's violation of law.

Unclaimed Property SearchWhen monetary and tangible property accounts held within financial institutions lie dormant for a period of more than five years, those accounts are turned over to the department as unclaimed property. Our Bureau of Unclaimed Property works to reconnect Floridians with these funds or property they may not have known existed, or may have forgotten about. Through proactive outreach efforts, they were able to pay out 384,036 individual claims, which resulted in unclaimed property returns of nearly $261 million. These returns ranged from money and securities to the contents of safety deposit boxes, which included watches, jewels and historical artifacts. All unclaimed property accounts are returnable to the rightful owner, or the legally entitled heir, at anytime and at no charge to the consumer.

I am proud of what we accomplished during 2014, but we’re just getting started. I look forward to even greater things in the year ahead.

For more information on these programs and how the Florida Department of Financial Services can help you claim what is rightfully yours, please visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com.

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

News of Interest

WJXT Channel 4: Florida unemployment rate dips to 5.6 percent

Tampa Tribune: Tampa climbs 30 places in world metro economy rankings

Sun-Sentinel: Manufacturing jobs pay more than others in Florida

Gainesville Sun: Gainesville fast becoming 'a growth area'

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Manatee mortgage lending up 33 percent from November

Bradenton Herald: Florida wise to require economics class in public education

WCTV: Florida Universities: STEM Degrees up Dramatically

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Jobless number shows promise for 2015

Tampa Tribune: Florida unemployment rate fell again in December

WESH: Florida unemployment rate reaches new low since 2008

CFO Atwater Announces Nine Miami PIP Fraud Arrests

Insurance Fraud BadgeChief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater recently announced nine arrests for personal injury protection (PIP) fraud in Miami. Charged in eight separate cases involving seven staged accidents, these individuals were arrested and charged for their involvement in the filing of more than $242,000 in fraudulent billings submitted to 11 insurance carriers.

"While their injuries may have been fake, PIP fraud is real and it is not a victimless crime," said CFO Atwater. "When insurance carriers absorb such high-dollar losses to fraud, we all pay in the form of higher insurance premiums. I’m thankful to our dedicated investigative team for shutting down this fraud ring."

Most PIP fraud rings involve several components that are each monetarily driven – the organizer, who recruits and arranges for individuals to stage, or intentionally cause, motor vehicle accidents; the patient broker, who convinces the participants to seek post-accident medical treatments for non-existent injuries; and sometimes licensed medical providers, who agree to sign off on falsified medical treatment documents in exchange for payments billed under the participants’ personal injury protection benefits as part of their automobile insurance policies. The Division of Insurance Fraud arrested these nine individuals for acting in one or more of these capacities.

Participants in these staged accidents were referred to at least 13 different South Florida medical clinics. This case remains ongoing and additional arrests are expected.

Anyone with information about suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded nearly $350,000 to nearly 60 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida’s unemployment rate continues to drop
Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent in December, down 0.2 percentage points from November (5.8%) and down 0.7 percentage points from December of 2013 (6.3%). The U.S. unemployment rate also dropped to 5.6 percent in December, down 0.2 percentage points from November (5.8%) and down 0.7 points from December of 2013 (6.3%).
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Florida home sales increase in December
There were 22,414 closed home sales in December, 26 percent more than last month (17,772) and 15.8 percent more than December of 2013 (19,355). Additionally, the median sale price increased to $185,000 from $176,000 in November and $173,000 from December of 2013.
Source: Florida Realtors

Outlook on 2015

This issue of Florida’s Bottom Line highlights opportunities that lie ahead of us in the coming year, as well as issues from 2014. It includes economic forecasts and expert analysis on Florida from leading economists, and insightful outlooks on key industries from the industry leaders themselves.

Fostering Financial Prosperity