Volume 5 Number 31 August 1, 2008
CONSUMER SERVICES HELPLINE
Many Floridians may not be aware of the
Insurance Consumer Advocate's office and how it can assist
Florida's Insurance Consumer Advocate is an
independent leader with an effective and powerful voice for
For example, this week the Insurance
Consumer Advocate's office, working with the Agency for
Health Care Administration (AHCA), helped a Tampa woman's
family overcome daunting health care challenges.
Earlier this year a crime occurred in the Tampa Bay area
that left a bright young
woman with life-threatening and permanently life-altering
injuries. In the midst of this tragedy, the
family found themselves caught up in the confusing
and frustrating red tape surrounding the medical coverage
necessary to provide rehabilitation and the best possible
outcome for recovery.
Thanks to the compassion and quick work by our Insurance
Consumer Advocate and AHCA, the young woman will be
allowed to remain at the medical facility where she is
currently making painstaking progress.
We want to take this opportunity to recognize our colleagues in state government for
their dedication to consistent, high-quality service that
often goes unrecognized.
Working together, the public servants in these agencies have given the young woman’s family
the priceless peace of mind that their loved one will
continue to receive the care so desperately needed. We thank
all of our Florida colleagues for their excellent work on
behalf of this family.
Insurance Consumer Advocate is committed to finding
solutions to insurance issues facing Floridians.
Our highest purpose in Florida’s state government is
to serve our citizens. Our consumer helpline, 1-877-MY-FL-CFO,
is your link to obtaining help when you
need it most. We are here to advocate on your behalf.
CFO SINK JOINS WITH THE FLORIDA BAR ON A
STATEWIDE CAMPAIGN TO HELP FLORIDIANS FACING FORECLOSURE
“It takes a lawyer.”
That was the advice CFO Alex Sink heard last year from April
Charney – an attorney at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid who had
been working on behalf of Floridians facing foreclosure.
CFO Sink participated in a meeting with Charney, other
attorneys and community leaders at the offices of
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid to discuss what could be done to
help Floridians who were about to lose their homes.
With Florida ranked number two in the nation in foreclosure
rates, CFO Sink challenged the Bar to launch a statewide
campaign to provide pro bono services to Floridians facing
The Florida Bar answered CFO Sink’s call for help by
launching a toll free hotline and coordinated statewide pro
bono campaign. The campaign provides attorneys to impacted
Floridians to help them negotiate with their lenders.
Attorneys across the state are signing up to participate in
Floridians who need legal assistance through
the program can call the free telephone hotline,
1-866-607-2187. The program is coordinated by the Florida
Bar, the Florida Bar Foundation and Florida Legal Services.
CFO SINK TO AUCTION
UNCLAIMED PROPERTY IN TAMPA BAY ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 2
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink reminds Floridians that the
State of Florida will auction off more than 40,000 unclaimed
items estimated to be worth more than $500,000 at the auction on Saturday, August 2, 2008, at the Grand Hyatt Tampa
and phone staff from the DFS Bureau of Unclaimed
Property help consumers search for lost treasure at
the auction site.
“Every year, the State of Florida auctions thousands of
valuables, including jewelry, rare coins, sports memorabilia
and historical items,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the
Department of Financial Services. “I encourage everyone to
come by the auction for an opportunity to bid on a piece of
Florida’s lost treasure.”
For additional information on terms for
participating, please visit
http://www.fltreasurehunt.org/ and click on “Upcoming
Saturday, August 2
Registration opens at 8:00 a.m.
Auction will begin at 10:00 a.m.
Location: Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay,
2900 Bayport Drive
Tampa, FL 33607
DEPUTY CFO DONNA O'NEAL
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink would like to introduce
Donna O'Neal, a member of her management team.
Donna was recently promoted to one of three Deputy Chief
Financial Officer positions, with the Divisions of Risk
Management, Accounting and Auditing, Administration, and
Information Services in her oversight responsibilities.
Donna O'Neal joined the Department of Financial Services
team as Deputy Chief of Staff in February 2008, working to
advance the CFO’s financial management and accountability
initiatives. Donna came from the Department of Juvenile
Justice, having served as Chief of Staff for Secretary
O'Neal has more than 20 years experience in state and local
government issues, having spent more than a decade with the
Florida Department of Revenue in the areas of executive
project management, taxpayer education, strategic planning,
performance assessment and communications. Previously a
capital bureau reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, O'Neal
holds a master of arts degree in journalism from the
University of Missouri and bachelor’s degree in
communications from Louisiana State University.
An avid touring bicyclist,
O'Neal has ridden across the states of Vermont, Montana,
Washington, Georgia, Florida and several provinces of Canada.
Are you the chief
financial officer of your family? Are you always
looking out for the best deals, wise investments and
smart moves for your family's financial security?
As your family's fiscal
watch dog, keep an eye on
this column for money-smart ideas from the Chief
Financial Officer of Florida,
TO MINIMIZE DEBT IN COLLEGE
College students, easy
targets for credit card companies, are aggressively
solicited to sign up with offers of free stuff. At major
events like football games and in school cafeterias, credit
card reps ply students with offers that are hard to refuse -
and the lure of easy money is hard to resist.
Many aren't prepared for the interest, overlimit and late
payment fees that come with credit cards. As a result,
college students can end up with excessive debt that may hamper renting an apartment, landing a job or even
gaining admission to graduate school.
Armed with the financial knowledge and techniques of credit
management, students can successfully navigate through the
college years without the added burden of excessive credit
card debt. Guidelines to follow:
- Create a realistic
budget - know what is there to spend and don’t spend
more than is in the budget.
- Always have savings for
an emergency - don't rely on credit cards if you can
- Use cash, a debit card
or a check as much as possible, which will help avoid
- Pay cash for items under
$10 and items to eat or drink - little things add up.
- If having a credit card
is a must, have only one, and only charge things that
can be paid for on time to limit interest and avoid
- Stop charging if credit
card debt is not within the budget, then pay off as much
as possible every month.
MORE THAN 70,000 KIDS AND COUNTING
Dawn Bass was recently forced into a difficult situation.
She says she was going through a trying time and realized
she couldn’t afford private health insurance for her
16-year-old daughter. As the parent of a growing teenager,
she knew she had to do something. Fortunately a co-worker
told her about low-cost insurance available through Florida
KidCare and Dawn took advantage of the opportunity. She
submitted an application and within a few weeks, her
daughter had quality health care benefits that cost less
than $20 per month.
The growing number of kids enrolling in Florida KidCare is
the result of a year-long outreach campaign led by the
Governor’s office, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Alex Sink
and the leaders of several state agencies who’ve dedicated
resources and staff to promote the program. With the help of
business and community groups, the state will reach out to the
families of the half million uninsured children in Florida
and help them apply for KidCare as they prepare for the new
“We have a simple message: KidCare is open for business and
is providing quality health insurance at an affordable
price,” said CFO Sink, who chairs the Healthy Kids Board.
“With Florida KidCare, many working families are ensuring
their children have access to preventative health care.”
DFS HELPS FBI NAB SUSPECT IN WIRE FRAUD
A 35-year-old man is in custody after being arrested on
charges of wire fraud. Moments before he boarded an
international flight, Ali Hammoud was arrested by federal
agents at the Miami International Airport.
The Department of Financial Services’ Division of Accounting
and Auditing (DFS) contacted the FBI immediately after
determining that $5.7 million in funds payable to a state
road contractor had been fraudulently re-directed to an
account in Hammoud’s name.
Monday afternoon, the Department of Financial Services was
successful in obtaining an injunction against Regions Bank,
Wachovia Bank, and Bank of America to freeze any funds that
had been transferred in connection with the fraud. A full
recovery of all funds is expected.
“We’re grateful the FBI responded swiftly and arrested this
individual,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink,
who oversees DFS. “We are working hand-in-hand with the U.S.
Attorney and others to assure that this case is successfully
Acting U.S. Attorney Thomas F. Kirwin stated that,
“Hammoud’s arrest at the Miami International Airport arose
from a criminal complaint filed in United States District
Court for the Northern District of Florida charging Hammoud
with wire fraud. The charge carries a
maximum penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment. Hammoud is
presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
CFO SINK URGES
SELF-EMPLOYED TO BUY, REVIEW HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE
DURING AUGUST OPEN ENROLLMENT
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink urges
Florida’s self-employed individuals to take advantage of the
August open enrollment period that allows single-group
employers, sole proprietors, independent contractors and
others to obtain health insurance or switch plans on a
“This is a once-a-year opportunity for self-employed
individuals to make sure they have the coverage they need to
protect themselves and their families,” said CFO Sink.
August 1 through August 31, 2008, insurers and Health
Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) that write small-group
policies must offer basic and standard coverage to the
self-employed without regard to health status. Policies
written or renewed in August have a plan start date of
October 1, 2008.
CFO SINK ADDRESSES THE
FLORIDA SHERIFFS ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
CFO Sink shared her insights
with Florida sheriffs about how the downturn in the economy
is fueling an increase in fraud-related crime investigated
by her department.
Speaking to the Florida Sheriffs Association 2008 Summer
Conference Monday in Orlando,
Sink observed that Florida's challenging economic times not only
are triggering state and local government budget cuts but
also are likely to lead to an increase in certain crimes,
including house fires, vehicle arson, unauthorized insurance
activity and workers’ compensation fraud. These crimes are
among those handled by the CFO's divisions of State Fire
Marshal, Insurance Fraud and Workers' Compensation.
CFO Sink noted that
Florida’s budget cuts are
also impacting law enforcement agencies by contributing to vacant prosecutor positions, fewer
corrections officers and cuts in deputy positions.
With oversight of two statewide law enforcement
agencies CFO Sink expressed her strong
support for the work of the Florida Sheriffs Association to
protect those in uniform.
CFO Sink also expressed her condolences in the wake of Okaloosa
County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Forgione’s recent death,
offering the people of Florida's gratitude for the
risk that officers and their families accept every day.
The Florida Sheriffs Association membership is composed of
the 67 Florida sheriffs, about 3,500 business leaders and
130,000 citizens throughout the state.