Volume 2, Number 2, January 10, 2005
There will be many lessons learned in the aftermath of the tragic tsunami that struck Asia, and one of them comes from a 10-year-old Miami Beach girl.
When Carolyn Lipsick learned of the terrible suffering and needs of the tsunami victim, she wanted to do something to help. Like kids have done for generations, she set up a lemonade stand outside her home. She intended to send the profits to UNICEF.
But her heart was broken when the city told her she couldn’t operate the lemonade stand because she didn’t have a permit.
I was very discouraged when I heard that news. There is nothing more pure and innocent than the heart of a child. I have seen firsthand the joy and pride in the eyes of my own son, Charlie, when he set up a lemonade stand and got a customer.
Today, I invited Carolyn Lipsick to set up her lemonade outside my capitol office and sell lemonade and cookies. Carolyn made $500 in less than three hours, and seemed very pleased with herself, as she should be.
Thousands of Asian children were orphaned, and a child a half a world away wanted to help. Carolyn reached her goal and, I hope, learned never to give up.
-- Tom Gallagher
KIDCARE HEALTH BENEFITS AVAILABLE TO UNINSURED FLORIDA CHILDREN
Florida families with uninsured children can now apply for affordable quality health coverage through Healthy Kids. A 30-day open-enrollment period for the state-subsidized health insurance program began on January 1, 2005 and will continue through January 30, 2005. Children enrolled in the program receive regular doctor’s visits, immunizations and dental appointments at a monthly premium their working parents can afford.
Under new guidelines just approved by the Florida legislature, families need only supply one document verifying their income. Uninsured children 18 years of age and under who do not qualify for Medicaid are eligible for the program.
“We are working hard to get the word out to families with uninsured children that coverage is available through Healthy Kids,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher during a press briefing in Tallahassee today. ”We’ve made it easier for kids to get insured and we have more than 70,000 spots available to fill the program. The time to act is now!”
The KidCare open enrollment period is a joint effort between Florida Healthy Kids, the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA).
In the first nine days of open enrollment, 22,836 applications were received at the Healthy Kids office in Tallahassee. According to Healthy Kids Executive Director Rose Naff, this high volume is the most ever received in the history of the program, however, it’s slightly behind their goal of 25,000 applications a week necessary to fill the program. To accommodate this record setting pace of applications being received, Naff told reporters there are more phone lines and Healthy Kids personnel available to help parents enroll their children.
“We can take applications by mail, fax and e-mail,” Naff said. “We have 268 phone lines open and 198 customer service representatives standing by to walk parents through the open enrollment process. Our goal is to make sure every uninsured child in Florida has access to this program.”
Applications for open enrollment are available to download on the Internet at http://www.healthykids.org/application/ or families can call 1-888-540-KIDS (1-888-540-5437) to receive an application in the mail. Applications are also available at DCF service centers, most hospitals and some doctor’s offices. For more information on where families can obtain an application in their community, log on to www.healthykids.org.
During the 30-day open enrollment period, parents must complete a one-page application form, attach a copy of their most recent federal income tax return and send it to Healthy Kids before January 30, 2005. If the parent is unable to provide their tax return, they may send wages and earnings statements or pay stubs.
Healthy Kids coverage will begin when eligibility has been determined and the full premium amount has been received. The amount of each premium is based on household size and monthly income. Most families pay either $15 or $20 per family per month; however, some families may pay more.
Healthy Kids can only accept applications received between January 1 and January 30, 2005. Applications received after this open enrollment period cannot be processed.
Florida Healthy Kids is a public-private partnership created by the Florida Legislature in 1990 to provide comprehensive, affordable health care coverage to previously uninsured children in Florida.
GALLAGHER LAUNCHES PROGRAM TO AID HURRICANE VICTIMS HIT BY MULTIPLE HURRICANE DEDUCTIBLES
The program to reimburse Floridians who were subject to multiple insurance deductibles because their homes were damaged by more than one hurricane in 2004 was launched by Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher. The Multiple Deductible Reimbursement Program was created in response to financial hardships suffered by Floridians when catastrophic hurricanes crisscrossed the state last August and September.
“Because of the financial devastation these people have suffered they may not be able to rebuild or repair their homes. The consequences of such a scenario could be financially devastating to the economy of this state,” said Gallagher, who pushed for legislation to require one hurricane deductible for the season starting in 2005 which was passed by state lawmakers. “The program to provide these storm victims financial relief is now up and running and applications to eligible individuals will soon arrive in thousands of mailboxes across the state. I encourage those who are eligible to submit their applications as soon as possible so that we can get them the financial assistance they need to start rebuilding.”
Gallagher’s comments were made at a press conference in Orlando, where many storm victims were hit by more than one hurricane and are potentially eligible for reimbursement for multiple deductible losses. He also previewed the program application so eligible Floridians have a better idea of what to expect and how to complete the application. The program will be administered by the Florida Department of Financial Services, which Gallagher oversees. Joining Gallagher at the press conference were House Majority Leader Andy Gardiner from Orlando and Representative Dennis Ross from Polk County, chairman of the House Insurance Committee.
The enabling legislation for the program, sponsored by Miami Senator Rudy Garcia and Representative Ross, was passed during a special legislative session in mid-December and appropriated $150 million for relief. The new law requires that financial assistance be paid first to Floridians who paid two or more full deductibles, followed by those who paid part of a second or third deductible. Floridians eligible for the program include homeowners, renters, manufactured homeowners, condominium unit homeowners and condominium associations, who paid one full deductible for hurricane losses and also incurred deductible losses from a second, third or even a fourth hurricane.
Maximum reimbursements under the program are $10,000 per qualifying event up to a maximum of $20,000. Condominium associations can recover a maximum of $3,000 per unit that did not have insurance for assessments. Any policyholder who paid more than one full deductible also may be eligible for relief.
All applications must be completed, signed and filed with the department by March 1, 2005.
STATEMENT FROM FLORIDA'S CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER REGARDING CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE CORPORATION
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher addressed the task force he created to improve the performance of the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Gallagher released the following statement after the meeting:
“I appointed this task force to accomplish two goals. One goal was to improve Citizens customer service performance which we found was sorely lacking during the recent string of hurricanes. Secondly, I wanted them to explore ways to give Floridians more insurance choices so that Citizens is truly the last place people go to find coverage instead of being the only place.
The next hurricane season begins in less than six months. Therefore I am setting goals I want to see Citizens achieve in that timeframe. I want them to increase their accountability to policyholders, which would include tracking claims from start to finish. Rather than contracting out the adjusting and processing of claims I want Citizens to create a base infrastructure that is both reliable and affordable. I want claims to be better handled by Citizens and this would include regionalizing their claims offices throughout Florida. And finally I want to create a better relationship between Citizens and their local agents.
I understand Citizens has made some progress in response to my recent order that they address these issues. But, like it or not, they have become one of the top five insurance companies in this state and I believe they need to operate like one.”
HAZARDOUS WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK CONTEST
FLASH is helping promote Hazardous Weather Awareness Week, sponsored by the Florida Department of Community Affairs/Division of Emergency Management, National Weather Service and more. This year's activities will include a kickoff news event at the Capitol on Monday, February 21, a school-based tornado drill on Wednesday, February 23, and a FLASH "Turn Around/Don't Drown" news event in Tampa on Thursday, February 24.
Below is the link to the kids poster contest web site. Contestants need to be in either the 4th or 5th grade in the State of Florida and winners will receive recognition at the Capitol, savings bonds, a weather radio or other great prizes. Encourage your youngsters to get creative!