Last week I joined two key lawmakers in support of legislation to require insurance companies to clearly outline what is covered in homeowners insurance policies. The consumer protection bill is being sponsored by Sen. Rudy Garcia, of Hialeah, and Rep. Joe Negron, of Stuart. The measure calls for insurers to spell out hurricane deductibles available to homeowners and the financial consequences of each choice. Homeowners would get the option to purchase a standard homeowners insurance policy, much like the basic and standard health insurance plans offered in Florida.
The recent hurricanes were devastating personally and financially for many Floridians. Thousands have told us they did not realize how much their insurance policies required them to pay in a high deductible as well as for property they thought was covered. We need to do everything we can to make sure homeowners insurance policies are easy to understand, clearly outline coverage and disclose what the policyholder is financially responsible for in the event of a storm.
Sen. Garcia called the legislation just plain common sense and spoke of the need to take the often confusing language in insurance policies and make it clear and understandable.
Rep. Negron agreed and stated that if people are required to buy insurance, they deserve to know and understand what protections are in their policies, and these items need to be outlined in a plain and simple manner.
The legislation would require:
The bill calls for the creation of an advisory committee that would file recommendations for the standard policy language by January 1, 2006.
The Old Hernando County Courthouse, surrounded by grand old oak trees, was built in 1912 in the county seat of Brooksville.
|GALLAGHER UNVEILS A NEW PHASE IN ONGOING ANTI-PIP FRAUD PUBLIC EDUCATION CAMPAIGN|
Announcement follows the arrests of members of a staged accident ring
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher unveiled plans for the newest phase of an ongoing public education campaign aimed at ensuring those who might participate in staged accidents and auto insurance fraud know that the consequences include time in prison and driver license revocation.
He revealed the campaign plans following the arrests of 22 of 39 individuals in Miami believed to have been involved in a ring that staged at least a dozen auto crashes and fraudulently billed insurance companies for $1 million. Twenty-five members, if convicted, will face a minimum mandatory sentence of two years in prison for organizing the staged crashes, and up to 15 years in prison on all charges.
“These individuals staged car crashes and faked injuries,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “But the costs are very real – hundreds of dollars in additional costs each year on the backs of Florida families.”
In the last five years, the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, has arrested more than 800 people in connection with at least $23 million in Personal Injury Protection insurance fraud. Florida drivers are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in PIP coverage and $10,000 property damage coverage. By staging accidents, the planners and participants, usually in connection with unscrupulous clinic owners, target the PIP insurance of drivers, and fraudulently bill auto insurance companies for injuries and treatments that never happened. CONTINUED
|HONOR AWARDED AT THE FLORIDA STATE FAIR|
Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, representing the Governor, helped present the Citizen of the Year award from the Tampa Metro Civitan Club during the annual Governor's Luncheon at the Florida State Fair.
Noted surgeon and humanitarian Sylvia Campbell was surprised by the honor. A Tampa native, Campbell is board president of the Judeo Christian Health Clinic, which operates with volunteers and gives about 14,000 patients a year access to physicians, pharmacists and nurses. Dr. Campbell has made 14 trips to Haiti to help residents of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. She is a respected asset in the Tampa community.
The Civitan award, which honors Tampa volunteers, dates to 1927. The list of recipients includes Peter O. Knight Sr., Ernest Maas Sr., Howard P. McFarlane, Howard Frankland, Chester Ferguson, Bob Thomas, H.L. Culbreath.
Recent winners include attorney Reece Smith, auto dealer Jim Ferman Jr., minister and former coach Abe Brown, child advocates Ann Murphey and Liz Kennedy, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, brothers Leonard and George Levy, tire king Olin Mott and developer Al Austin.
CFO GALLAGHER TO HOST TOWN HALL MEETINGS IN AREAS STILL SERIOUSLY IMPACTED BY HURRICANES
CONSUMER SERVICE TEAMS TO ASSIST THOSE STILL AFFECTED
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher has announced he will be hosting town hall meetings in hurricane-ravaged areas, with the first meeting tentatively scheduled in Pensacola on Wednesday, March 2, 2005. Gallagher said he is going to talk with storm victims in the Panhandle first because that is where the largest percentage of storm claims are still unresolved.
In addition to Pensacola, town hall meetings will be scheduled in early March in the following communities: Port Charlotte, Orlando and Melbourne. Details on dates, locations and times will follow in the coming week.
“If Floridians are still having problems with their insurance companies, I want to hear from them personally,” said Gallagher. “My focus is to direct all available resources to helping storm victims who are eager to rebuild their homes and their lives.”
|GALLAGHER URGES THOSE ELIGIBLE FOR MULTIPLE HURRICANE DEDUCTIBLE RELIEF TO ACT NOW|
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher warned Floridians who were hit with multiple hurricane deductibles during last year’s hurricane season that the deadline to apply for relief is just a week away. Under the law the state legislature passed in December establishing the program, no applications can be accepted after March 1, 2005.
The program was created to avoid the terrible economic consequences Florida faced if people who were struggling to pay multiple hurricane deductibles were unable to repair or rebuild their homes. The Legislature also accepted Gallagher’s proposal to limit hurricane deductibles to one per year for future hurricane seasons.
“If policyholders were subject to more than a single, full deductible they should have received an application from their insurance company,” said Gallagher. “If they have not received anything, they should call their insurer immediately. Also, they should call our department at 1-800-22-STORM to request an application package, or they can download one at www.MyFloridaCFO.com. The bottom line,” said Gallagher, “is that if you believe you are eligible you must file an application or you cannot be considered for reimbursement.”
|FLORIDA OFFICE OF INSURANCE REGULATION LEVIES FINES ON INSURANCE COMPANIES FOUND IN NON-COMPLIANCE|
Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty announced that 91 insurance companies were assessed fines totaling more than $1.1 million for filing late affidavits stemming from Tropical Storm Bonnie and Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.
“These companies were given an appropriate time period to submit the required affidavits based on these devastating hurricanes and they have failed to do so,” said Commissioner McCarty. “These fines are representative of the importance of timely filing.”
The companies were found in violation of Emergency Rule #69OER04-19 Claims Adjustment Requirements. The Emergency Rule required all property and casualty insurers with direct personal lines residential property claims in Florida resulting from Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, and Tropical Storm Bonnie to expeditiously settle claims and furnish an Affidavit attesting to their compliance with the Emergency Rule.
The rule stipulated that policyholders entitled to additional living expenses will have been provided advanced funds, all damage will have been evaluated and assessed, and a good faith and reasonable effort will have been made to settle all claims or earnest negotiations toward settlement of disputed claims will have begun.
Under Florida law, any insurer in noncompliance with the reporting deadlines would be assessed an administrative fine of $2,500.00 for each day the affidavit has not been received by the Office.
This announcement follows a comprehensive review of the affidavits submitted by the industry to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.