FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Volume 3, Number 48, November 27, 2006
Following two years of
back-to-back hurricanes, it is a relief to get through this hurricane
season, which ends this Thursday, with just one tropical storm that
generated some heavy rainfall. With thousands of Floridians still working
diligently to repair past damage, we are fortunate that Mother Nature has
given us a break.
With that said, however,
it’s never too soon to plan ahead to protect your family from catastrophes.
Thousands of homeowners have already taken that step by applying for a free
home inspection through the My Safe Florida Home program. In fact, we have
already conducted over 11,000 inspections to date and hope to assist as many
as 50,000 Floridians over the next year.
For many of us, buying and
owning a home is one of the greatest and smartest investments we make in our
lives. Strengthening your home against hurricanes is also a smart financial
investment for a number of reasons, including:
You reduce the
likelihood of property losses.
You reduce the
likelihood of damage to irreplaceable possessions.
You reduce your
out-of-pocket expenses after a storm.
You may save money on
your insurance premiums.
You may increase the
resale value of your home.
While all of these reasons
help us make the financial decision to strengthen our homes against
catastrophic losses, the most important reason is your safety and the safety
of your family from a storm.
To learn more about what
steps you can take to better protect your family and home from hurricanes,
-- Tom Gallagher
GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES FREE HOME INSPECTIONS TO
START IN PANHANDLE
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer,
announced that free home inspections will soon begin in
Escambia, Santa Rosa and Walton counties for approved
homeowners who applied through the My Safe Florida Home
program. The program, funded with $250 million by the
Florida Legislature, was created to better protect
Floridians by strengthening their homes against
hurricanes and to reduce the state’s exposure to
“Before this hurricane season ends, my goal is to
provide 12,000 free home inspections across the state to
help Floridians strengthen their homes and better
protect their families against catastrophic storms,”
said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial
Services which administers the My Safe Florida Home
Gallagher said that homeowners in Escambia, Santa Rosa
and Walton counties who have already submitted completed
applications will be contacted by a department-approved
inspector to schedule an inspection. The department has
already received roughly 1,400 completed applications in
these three counties. Future applicants will be served
with additional funding of the My Safe Florida Home
Following an inspection, homeowners will receive a
report that outlines up to seven areas that could be
improved to better protect the home against hurricanes,
an estimate of how much
improvements would cost, the expected insurance savings
the homeowner would receive if improvements were made,
and a rating of the home’s current ability to withstand
hurricanes and its future ability to withstand
hurricanes with improvements.
Gallagher said that the expansion into Escambia, Santa
Rosa and Walton counties is possible thanks to a
partnership with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes
(FLASH) to screen and train over 500 inspectors.
Applying and obtaining a free home inspection is just
the first step of the program. Homeowners who undergo
the My Safe Florida Home inspection may also qualify for
matching grants of up to $5,000 to fortify their homes.
As directed by the new law to reduce hurricane exposure
and property losses in Florida, grants will be
prioritized and awarded to homeowners who live in
high-risk, hurricane-vulnerable areas of the state.
Since the My Safe Florida Home program launched in late
August, approximately 9,500 inspections have been
completed in 17 Florida counties. To ensure each county
receives a fair share of free home inspections, the My
Safe Florida Home program is limiting the number of
inspections in each county based upon population.
Applicants who do not receive a free home inspection
before this limit is met will have their applications
held for future phases of the program.
Eligible Floridians must live in a single-family,
site-built home with an insured value of $500,000 or
less and have a valid homestead exemption. Documents
verifying this information must be submitted with a
completed application. Floridians can apply on-line at
www.mysafefloridahome.com or by calling
1-800-342-2762 to get an application packet.
MEDICARE HMO ORDERED INTO REHABILITATION
A circuit court judge ordered DoctorCare, Inc., a Medicare HMO operating in
Miami, into receivership for purposes of
rehabilitation and has named the Department of
Financial Services as receiver. The federal
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
(CMS), which regulates Medicare HMOs, has a plan
to transition nearly 5,700 of DoctorCare’s
enrollees into other HMOs with no break in
coverage or care.
Under the receivership plan, DoctorCare’s
enrollees will have the option to secure new
coverage through the HMO they will be
transitioned to or pursue coverage with an
alternate one by March 31, 2007. CMS has
worked with the following HMOs to assist
enrollees: WellCare of Florida Inc. and
Preferred Care Partners Inc.
“This plan protects our seniors by ensuring
uninterrupted access to health care services and
Medicare drug benefit coverage,” said Florida’s
Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher.
Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry P. Lewis
ordered DoctorCare into receivership because the
HMO has become insolvent and appointed the
Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS)
as receiver. As receiver, DFS will eventually
liquidate all assets once the company is ordered
liquidated to pay outstanding claims.
CMS will be responsible for monitoring the plan
to transition enrollees into other Medicare
Advantage plans serving Miami-Dade County. CMS
will also oversee continuation of care and
answer questions, including coverage options
available through a special election period that
begins immediately and will continue through
March 31, 2007.
Current enrollees in DoctorCare who have
questions or concerns should contact CMS at
800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227), TTY toll-free
877-486-2048, or log on to
View the receivership order at:
BE ON THE ALERT FOR SUSPICIOUS
PayPal sent an email requesting an update on
account information due to a supposed security
breach that could cause a loss of access. Or so
it seemed. Unfortunately the e-mail was not from
PayPal. Filling out the phony form handed over
private financial information to cybercriminals.
Phishing, identity theft through an
email or Web site that seems to be
legitimate, is used by scammers to get personal
information from individuals and use it for
Phishing and financial fraud have become a
challenging part of the financial services
industry. In Florida, financial institutions
spend increasingly larger amounts each year for
recovery from financial scams.
Scammers pretend to be banks or actual
businesses such as PayPal. The emailers use
logos and messages that look and sound
authentic, and request personal information such
as addresses, Social Security numbers, debit
card numbers, personal identification numbers
and telephone numbers.
Though some of the phishing emails can be fairly
sophisticated, misspelled words and poor grammar
are signs that the messages are counterfeit.
Plus, a legitimate organization would not ask
for information such as PINs over the internet
or the phone.
Despite warnings, consumers can fall for the
phishers' scams. Victims should take protective
steps by telling credit bureaus of possible
identity theft to avoid the compromise of
The Fraud Hotline at the Social Security
Administration and the Federal Trade Commission
Identity Theft Hotline should both be notified.
Watch for unauthorized charges on credit card
statements and check for fraudulent accounts
that may have been opened in the victim's name.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the
Fair Credit Billing Act limits the liability for
unauthorized credit card charges to $50 per
Liability for debit card charges depend on how
quickly the loss is reported. Unauthorized
transactions reported within two business days
limit losses to $50. Reporting between three and
60 days raises the liability to $500 and after
60 days the entire amount becomes the
responsibility of the victim.
Phishing may make consumers hesitant to use
online banking but it actually can help find
fraud faster because accounts can be checked
Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762