CFO Alex Sink's Consumer eViews NewsletterFLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
ALEX SINK'S NEWSLETTER

Volume 7 Number 2 January 8, 2010

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Dear Floridian:

As Florida’s elected CFO, it is my duty to save taxpayer dollars, cut government waste and make sure consumers have the help they need. Insurance can sometimes be a very complex matter, and it’s the responsibility of our team to make sure that Floridians have the proper information to make informed decisions and are protected from fraud.

That’s why this week I was pleased to announce that consumer specialists in our Division of Consumer Services recovered a whopping $22 million for Floridians in 2009. This money was recovered from all different types of insurance companies, and I commend the work of our consumer experts who worked diligently to get these millions that were owed back to everyday Floridians.

In 2010, we will continue to fight for Florida’s consumers and hold these insurance companies accountable.

Sincerely,

Alex Sink
CFO
State of Florida


CFO Sink’s consumer specialists recover $22 million for Floridians in 2009

Florida CFO Alex Sink on Friday announced that her Department of Financial Services helped recover over $22 million for Florida’s insurance consumers in 2009. With CFO Sink’s leadership and businesslike approach, her Division of Consumer Services has annually increased its effectiveness in helping Floridians get the money they’re owed back from insurance companies.

“Our mission is to fight for Floridians and hold these insurance companies accountable,” said CFO Sink. “I commend the work of our consumer experts who worked diligently to get millions back for the everyday Floridians who are struggling in these tough economic times.”

One recent success story was the recovery of more than $516,000 for 998 customers of Household Finance Company (HFC). The Department started an aggressive investigation after being tipped off by an Orlando resident who discovered monthly premiums of $4.93 being deducted from her account two years after her policy expired.

Another recovery occurred after a Sarasota resident was sold an annuity that did not meet the requirements he set. “Without this assistance, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere,” said Charles Smith, who was able to successfully recover his full investment of $60,000 from an improper annuity after CFO Sink’s insurance consumer experts contacted the company.

An additional accomplishment came from Richard Foster of Temple Terrace, who was frustrated because he could not get a call back from his insurance company regarding a claim. After calling CFO Sink’s insurance consumer helpline, consumer specialists helped Mr. Foster resolve his claim and assisted him in recovering $12,160 in just a few days.

The recovery of over $22 million by CFO Sink’s Division of Consumer Services represents a continued annual increase in yearly recovered funds, up from $14 million in 2008. CFO Sink also recently launched an online help center, where consumers will be able to file a request for assistance and check the status of their request at any time.

Floridians who need help recovering money from insurance companies or have an insurance claim, question or complaint, can receive help online at www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call our Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).


CFO Sink offers heating safety tips as Florida faces freezing temps

As Floridians across the state face freezing cold temperatures, CFO and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink on Friday offered fire safety precautions to take when families use their space heaters, wood burning stoves and fireplaces. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires in the nation during the months of December, January and February.

“These frigid temperatures have Floridians looking for ways to keep their homes warm, but it’s important to take certain precautions when using space heaters or fireplaces,” said State Fire Marshal Alex Sink. “By following some simple safety tips, you can keep you family safe and warm during this cold front and throughout the winter months.”

A leading factor contributing to home heating fires and deaths is heating equipment placed too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding. Many heating fires can be prevented by following basic safety tips when dealing with any heating equipment:

Space Heaters:

Wood Burning Stoves and Fireplaces:

For more information and fire safety tips, visit CFO Sink’s State Fire Marshal web site at http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/sfm.


My Family CFO: COBRA subsidies extended to help workers

Federal subsidies for COBRA insurance coverage have been extended to 15 months.

The subsidy, part of the federal stimulus plan, pays 65 percent of the COBRA and mini-COBRA premiums for workers laid off from their jobs between Sept. 1, 2008, and Feb. 28, 2010. Before the extension the subsidy ran out after nine months, after which the unemployed would have to pay the full COBRA premium.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows many workers and their families to continue receiving health insurance coverage that had been provided through their former employer. However, the worker is responsible for paying up to 102 percent of the total cost of the insurance, much of which may have been formerly paid by the employer.

The COBRA subsidy helps those who have been laid off and couldn’t continue their health insurance because of expensive premiums. The subsidy’s original nine-month extension cutoff date was forcing many to cancel their coverage once the subsidy ran out.

The extension applies to those who are currently receiving the subsidies and to those who have already exhausted their initial nine months of subsidies. Unemployed workers who are eligible for the subsidies will be notified by their former employers’ insurance provider.

Workers who dropped COBRA after the subsidies ran out can re-enroll and receive the extended subsidy. Workers who have been paying the full premium since the subsidies ran out should contact their plan administrator or sponsor about receiving future credits or reimbursements for their past payments.

Mini-COBRA is provided for workers of companies with fewer than 20 employees.

Individuals with questions about COBRA benefits should contact the Florida Department of Financial Services at 877-693-5236 or go online to www.MyFloridaCFO.com/consumers

Read FAQs For Employees About COBRA Continuation Health Coverage from the United State Department of Labor web site.


Pay-As-You-Drive Insurance -- Will It Save You Money?

By Sean M. Shaw, Esq., Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate

Beginning April 1, 2010 Floridians will have a new choice when it comes to auto insurance. On that date, Progressive American Insurance Company (Progressive) will be the first company to offer a new product called Pay-As-You-Drive auto insurance. Pay-As-You-Drive (PAYD) or “usage-based” auto insurance, in its simplest form, bases insurance cost on the number of miles driven incorporated with existing rating factors, such as a driver’s accident history or geographical location. The fewer miles you drive the lower your premium. Policies may be based on estimated miles, verified miles and prepaid miles. For mileage verification policies, insurers could verify the driver’s miles through various methods, including periodic certified odometer readings, which can be obtained during inspections, self-reporting by the policyholder or by data transmitted by a technological device (telemetric) that connects to a vehicle’s OnBoard Diagnostic (OBD-II) port.

PAYD insurance will be offered in Florida by Progressive through their MyRate program which will go into effect on April 1, 2010 for new business and May 11, 2010 for renewal business. Upon enrollment in the MyRate program, Florida consumers (as in other states) will be mailed the telemetric device that easily plugs under the dash of your vehicle and will transmit mileage and driving behavior information to Progressive. The MyRate device does not contain global positioning satellite (GPS) technology and does not track vehicle location or whether you are exceeding the speed limit. There is also no way to determine driver identity. The program is purely voluntary on the part of each insured and insureds may continue their current rating basis without any penalty.

New products are always exciting and many consumers are curious to try out the latest product in the auto insurance world. However, PAYD insurance may not be the best choice for certain consumers. As the Insurance Consumer Advocate, I am going to help outline what types of drivers will benefit from PAYD insurance and which drivers may be best served by maintaining their current plan. Continued


Florida Housing Help: What does the foreclosure mediation ruling mean for you?

In late December, the Florida Supreme Court issued an order that directed judges to refer all new foreclosure cases involving primary residences to mediation. This comes as Florida has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country with about 450,000 homes currently in foreclosure.

While the order requires that Florida’s 20 judicial courts to issue administrative orders implementing the mediation requirement, the Court ruling does not give a deadline for the implementation to begin.

What does this mean for homeowners?

The requirement will only apply to foreclosure cases filed after a local administrative order has been issued and will only be for homes that are considered a primary residence. If the homeowner and the mortgage holder both agree, the mediation requirement can be waived.

Homeowners eligible for mediation will have to receive counseling from a certified U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency and then mediation will be scheduled two to four months after a foreclosure has been filed.

The cost of mediation is $750 and will be paid up front by the lender, but can be recovered by the lender if the mediation is not successful. Homeowners can choose to be placed in mediation but will have to share the cost of the mediation with the lender.

Implementation of the program will likely take several months.

The Supreme Court order also requires lenders to provide proof that they hold the promissory note, and it mandates that a statewide reporting system be created to collect data on mediation outcomes.

Upcoming Florida Housing Help events:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Cooperative Extension Service, Clayton Hutcheson Agricultural Services Center, 559 North Military Trail, West Palm Beach.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Joseph P. D’Alessandro Office Complex, 2295 Victoria Ave., Fort Myers.

Saturday, January 23, 2010, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at The University Area Community Development Center, 14013 North 22nd Street, Tampa.

Saturday, January 23, 2010, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Deltona City Hall, 2345 Providence Blvd., Deltona.


Consumer Corner: Medical discount plans vs. Health insurance

Everyone is trying to get the most they can out of their money these days. Medical Discount Plans, Prescription Discount Plans, Dental Discount Plans, and Vision Discount Plans - all of these are programs that we see and hear about all the time on TV and they sound like a great deal.

Consumers need to know the difference between medical discount plans and health insurance in order to know what they are buying.

With a medical discount plan, generally a consumer pays a fee to join a plan in return for discounts on products and services from participating vendors and providers. Often, members who join these plans are issued a card similar to an insurance card identifying them as a member; however, these plans are NOT insurance. (Florida Statute 636.202 and 636.244). With a medical discount plan, you pay a fee for a list of health care providers and sellers of health-related products who offer discounts to members of the plan.

These plans can be useful for some consumers looking to save money on health care, but they’re not the same as health insurance. A health insurance plan generally covers a broad array of services, and reimburses you or your health care provider for portions of your medical bills.

Follow these tips if you’re interested in buying a medical discount plan:

For more information or to verify the license of a medical discount plan, please visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call (850) 413-3089 or 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).

Portions excerpted an article published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's Consumer eViews 1-877-MY-FL-CFO