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.
With more and more Floridians falling behind on their
mortgage payments, CFO Sink participated in a meeting with
Charney and other attorneys and community leaders at the
offices of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid last year to discuss
what could be done to help Floridians who were about to lose
Following the meeting, CFO Sink went to see the Board of
Governors of the Florida Bar. 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 foreclosure.
In a massive effort to assist Floridians in their fight
against a foreclosure crisis, 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 Floridians to help them negotiate with
their lenders. Attorneys across the state are signing up to
participate in the program.
“CFO Alex Sink asked for the help of the Florida Bar
to address the avalanche of foreclosures facing Florida
homeowners,” said Sandra Fascell Diamond, chair of the Real
Probate and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar. “The Real
Property Probate and Trust Law Section is pleased to have
the opportunity to assist with the coordination of the
efforts of volunteer attorneys in this task. We hope to help
individual owners and their families find a way to keep
This week, CFO Sink traveled to Palm Beach to thank the Real
Property and Probate Section of the Florida Bar for their
efforts in starting the program.
“This is an incredible statewide effort, and you are making
a real difference to help Floridians during these difficult
economic times,” CFO Sink said to the approximately five
hundred attorneys at the Bar meeting. “I want to commend
each of you who are giving your time to volunteer to help
Floridians keep their homes.”
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.
Lawyers interested in volunteering for volunteering should
visit the Bar’s pro bono website at:
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
“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.”
To participate in the preview and
auction, potential bidders will be required to register with
the auctioneer and provide a valid ID with current address
and refundable $100 cash deposit that can also be applied to
any purchases. 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 in 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
State agencies and community partners ramp up statewide
Back-to- School outreach campaign to help uninsured families
apply for Florida KidCare
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 target 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.”
Sink was joined by Florida Surgeon General Ana Viamonte Ros,
Department of Children and Families Secretary Bob
Butterworth, Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary
Holly Benson, Education Commissioner Eric Smith, Healthy
Kids Executive Director Rich Robleto, legislators, community
groups, business leaders, health plans and health care
providers at the State Capitol on Monday to launch the
Dawn’s story is not so
unusual. In Florida, uninsured children are the exception,
not the rule. In fact, nine out of 10 children in Florida
have healthcare coverage – either private or public. Dawn’s
daughter joined the 1.4 million children enrolled in Florida
KidCare. Since last summer, the state and
federally-subsidized program enrolled 70,000 more children
who now have access to preventive care such as regular
doctor visits, immunizations, dental check-ups and
prescriptions. Like Dawn, many families pay $20 or less per
month; most pay nothing at all.
This year, the Governor and legislature approved funding for
38,000 more uninsured children to join KidCare and each
state agency has pledged to increase opportunities for
families to apply for the program. In addition to having a
visible presence at back-to-school events, the agencies are
implementing the following activities:
• All 67 county health departments will host KidCare
promotional events the first weekend in August.
• Florida KidCare is working with the school districts to
distribute more than 2.5 million applications to children at
the start of the school year.
• The Agency for Healthcare Administration is placing
KidCare promotional materials and applications in emergency
rooms and large pediatric centers across the state.
• The Department of Children and Families is sharing KidCare
information with families receiving public assistance, such
as food stamps and WIC.
• The Office of the Governor is working with Volunteer
Florida to distribute KidCare information to faith-based
With the recent state budget cuts and lack of funding for
traditional marketing of Florida KidCare, all of the program
stakeholders are implementing creative outreach methods to
target families with uninsured kids. The Florida Association
of Health Plans and its members, as well as health care
providers including the Florida Hospital Association, have
always promoted KidCare and they are increasing visibility
of the program in new ways. For example, approximately 167
clinics will air KidCare public service announcements on
waiting room televisions.
Another new approach to outreach includes a push by the
Healthy Kids Corporation to teach community-based
organizations how to help families apply for KidCare
benefits. The organization recently launched an online
course called “Florida KidCare 101” that educates approved
groups about the program and demonstrates how to complete
the application process and assist eligible families.
“We’ve got a strong and growing network of people who truly
care about the uninsured kids in this state and they are
helping us remove the barriers that keep families from
applying for KidCare,” said Surgeon General Viamonte Ros.
“We also want parents to know KidCare offers the best value
out there because the program is open to everyone,
regardless of income. So if you have uninsured children,
apply for KidCare now. You can’t afford not to.”
For more information or to apply for Florida KidCare, visit
www.floridakidcare.org. Families can also call
1-888-540-5437 to receive an application by mail.
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 today urged
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.
Applicants must meet all of the conditions and criteria
established by law, and provide documentation verifying the
operation of an active business, including tax forms,
license information and business receipts, per Florida
A list of insurance
companies offering coverage is posted on the Department of
Financial Services' website at
www.MyFloridaCFO.com/ and click on the button in the
right column "Small Employer Health Insurance August Open
To learn more about plan
In addition to basic and standard policies, coverage options
for employers include health savings accounts (HSAs) or
health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). HSAs, which
operate like Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), allow
people to save their own money in a tax-free account for use
on health-related expenses. If the money is not spent, it
rolls over annually and accumulates until the policyholder
reaches age 65, at which time the money can be used for any
For information on sample rates for small-group policies,
visit the Office of Insurance Regulation’s website at
www.floir.com, click on
the “Consumers” tab at the top, then scroll down to “Compare
Small Group Medical Rates.” Be sure to click “One Life
Factor” to view appropriate sample rates for single-group
A Health Insurance guide and Small Business Owners’
Insurance guide are available at
For further assistance, call the Department of Financial
Services’ toll-free consumer helpline at 1-800-My-FL-CFO
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.