Volume 1 Number 42
October 18, 2004










TEXT VERSION


CHARLEY


FRANCES


IVAN


JEANNE

In less than 40 days, Floridians experienced the wrath of Mother Nature’s destructive force.  For the first time in our state’s history, four named hurricanes have come ashore, causing billions of dollars in damage and leaving millions of Floridians devastated. 

We at the Florida Department of Financial Services understand residents are struggling during this trying time and we are responding in a variety of ways.   

From an insurance perspective, our state was prepared.  The Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and Citizens Property Insurance Corporation are two unique programs in Florida that will prevent a crisis in insurance coverage despite four back-to-back hurricanes.  

In addition to these two programs, we have taken decisive steps to assist consumers in the wake of the hurricanes, including: 

  • Instituting a moratorium on insurance companies canceling or non-renewing homeowners during hurricane season or because they have filed a storm claim.
  • Working with insurance companies and policyholders to resolve cases involving multiple deductibles.
  • Placing a 10 percent cap on what public adjusters can collect on a homeowner’s insurance claim and prohibiting them from charging fees up front.
  • Requiring Florida’s health insurers and HMOs to waive restrictions on prescription refills to enable citizens to fill prescriptions in advance. 
  • Urging banks and credit unions to expedite loan applications, eliminate late fees on loans and waive ATM and check-cashing fees for storm victims.
  • Setting up a mediation program to ensure consumers have a program in place, at no charge to them, to quickly and fairly resolve claim disputes.

Since the first storm made landfall on August 13, we have received more than 58,000 calls from consumers.  We have more than 150 department employees in the field assisting consumers with their insurance needs and concerns. 

As we navigate through this recovery process, other issues will emerge that will need to be addressed.  As CFO, I am committed to helping consumers get back on their feet and start rebuilding their lives.  And one of the best ways to provide that help is to make sure that residents are treated fairly by their insurance companies and get their claims paid as quickly as possible.

 

My best,

The skyline for October is Daytona Beach, photo courtesy of the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
 


 

 

 


“Your Money, Your Life,” a statewide public education initiative formed in cooperation with financial industry groups and the Allstate Foundation, offers a comprehensive Web site on personal financial matters. www.yourmoneyyourlife.org

FOR THOSE TAKING OUT LOANS AFTER THE STORMS

If you have to borrow money to repair your home in the aftermath of the storms, protect yourself by being aware of your rights as a consumer.

Unfortunately, this is a time when some homeowners make decisions out of despair and fall prey to unscrupulous operators who seem to offer just what is needed in the way of a loan. These wolves in sheep's clothing are known in the industry as predatory lenders.

Predatory lenders offer easy access to money, but use high-pressure salespersons and unfair techniques such as inflated interest rates, outrageous fees, unaffordable repayment terms, and harassing collection tactics. Homeowners can be tricked into taking out loans that they cannot afford to repay and, therefore, risk losing their homes to foreclosure. CONTINUED


 


 


 


MIAMI MAN ARRESTED FOR SELLING BOGUS DISCOUNT PLAN

Investigators suspect hundreds of residents in South Florida were victimized

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher has announced the arrest of a man, formerly banned from the insurance industry, who allegedly sold a fraudulent medical discount plan to several hundred customers throughout South Florida. Americ Health Plan, which cost almost $200 a month, included a supplemental insurance policy that consumers said confused them into thinking they were buying health insurance.

Reynaldo Gonzalez-Duenas, 48, surrendered today to investigators with the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, and was arrested on one count of organized fraud and seven counts of third-degree grand theft. He was booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail. If convicted, he could face a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison.

“Before purchasing these discount plans, consumers should know that these plans are not health insurance,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “Some discount card sellers are careful to say their plans are not insurance, but others are not so clear. Some intentionally give the impression that they are offering benefits usually associated with insurance.”
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GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES THE FIFTH ARREST OF AN UNLICENSED PUBLIC ADJUSTER WORKING IN HURRICANE-DAMAGE AREA

A Pennsylvania man working in the Fort Myers area was arrested by investigators with the Department of Financial Services on a charge of operating as a public adjuster without a license.

Albert E. McBride III, 36, of Prospect Park, Pa., is the fifth unlicensed public adjuster arrested in hurricane-hit areas and the second arrest of an individual working for Young Adjustment Company, Inc. out of Blue Bell, Pa. His arrest followed an investigation and undercover operation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud and Bureau of Agent and Agency Investigations. The investigators worked closely with Nationwide Catastrophic Claims Adjusters.

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services, urges residents to verify that the adjuster they are dealing with is licensed before signing any contract. CONTINUED