Volume 7 Number 31 July 30, 2010
This week I had the opportunity to travel to the Panhandle and meet with Kenneth Feinberg, the new Gulf Coast claims administrator for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, as well as small business owners and area Realtors who have been impacted by the spill. The meeting allowed me to advocate on behalf of affected small businesses who have been discouraged with the existing claims process, and to outline the ways in which the claims process could finally provide much-needed relief. Florida’s small businesses, entrepreneurs and Realtors are at the heart of Florida’s economy, and since the spill began, I have made it my priority to make sure their needs are addressed and their voices are heard.
Now that I’ve had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Feinberg, I am optimistic that the claims process will proceed at a better pace and serve a wider range of affected Floridians.
State of Florida
Florida CFO Alex Sink met with Kenneth Feinberg, the independent administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund, this week about the lost-income claims process for small businesses and real estate professionals.
“Florida's small business people, entrepreneurs and Realtors are the heart of our economy, and they deserve to be compensated swiftly for lost income,” said CFO Alex Sink. “The Gulf region is suffering a variety of consequences from the oil spill – including diminished property values. And during our all-important summer season, cancelled contracts and rentals are having a devastating effect on North Florida's residents and small businesses."
CFO Sink urged Ken Feinberg to make sure they are all treated fairly during the claims process.
Florida CFO Alex Sink issued the following statement regarding the loss of Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins, Jr., executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs:
“Admiral Collins dedicated his life to the protection of our state, country, and our veteran community,” said CFO Alex Sink. “As Floridians, we are all indebted to Admiral Collins for his honorable service, and for being such a vocal advocate for the 1.8 million veterans in our state. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, children and grandchildren during their time of mourning.”
CFO Sink and Adm. Collins speak to seniors together.
Florida CFO Alex Sink announced on Friday that her Department of Financial Services has helped recover more than $11.1 million for Florida’s insurance consumers in the first half of 2010. Under CFO Sink’s leadership, the department’s Division of Consumer Services continues its diligent efforts to help Floridians get the money they’re owed from insurance companies.
One such recovery involved Ronald Rosen of Naples who suffered severe water damage at his home after pipes in the residence burst. The water damage left holes in the floor and forced Rosen to stay with friends while waiting for the insurance company to return his phone calls. After receiving the complaint through the DFS Consumer Helpline, one of CFO Sink’s insurance consumer specialists was able to expedite the claims process.
“After I called the department the company returned my call the very next day,” Rosen said. “I was ready to hire an attorney. This would have never been resolved without the department’s help.” The department helped Rosen recover more than $81,000 to repair his home.
In 2009, the Department helped recover $22 million on behalf of Florida consumers, and $14 million in 2008. In addition to the Consumer Helpline, CFO Sink also offers insurance consumer assistance online through Consumer Help Online, where consumers can 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).
Secretary General Ron Noble of Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, and CFO Alex Sink met to discuss fraud in Florida and its worldwide implications following a luncheon for the Florida Sheriff’s Association Conference on this week in Ft. Lauderdale.
Interpol is the international intelligence agency that provides opportunities to collaborate among intelligence agencies around the world. Secretary General Noble works with 188 member countries around the world in their law enforcement communities as part of Interpol.
Gen. Noble and CFO Sink discussed Florida’s attraction to international visitors, the role of law enforcement in working together to protect citizens and visitors alike and the General’s goal that law enforcement agencies everywhere keep in mind how important it is to really focus on crime scenes they encounter, and share the data globally.
“International crime is a local crime somewhere,” Noble said.
CFO Sink introduced General Noble to Susan Benton, sheriff of Highlands County. As sheriff of a small rural community, she spoke about how financial fraud is prevalent in her area. The sheriff’s ongoing joint investigation among federal, state and local investigators involves money laundering and funds that had been traced through wire transfers, ending up in Egypt.
Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink on Wednesday announced the arrest of Earl S. Wilson, 55, on two counts of arson and four counts of attempted murder following a residential fire this morning in Seminole County. Wilson was booked into the Seminole County Jail and is being held without bond.
“Arson is a serious crime that puts the lives of innocent people and rescue personnel at risk and I hope this arrest sends a clear message to all arsonists that their actions will not be tolerated,” said CFO Sink. “Fortunately, no injuries were sustained in this case, and I commend my SFM detectives and the Sanford Fire and Police Departments for their good work to protect Floridians.”
The Sanford Fire Department called the State Fire Marshal’s Orlando office this morning to investigate the cause of a fire that began outside of a home located at 1016 East 9th Street in Seminole County. After arriving on scene, SFM investigators, with the assistance of K-9 Misty, confirmed the fires were intentionally set after locating and identifying an accelerant. The home’s two occupants told detectives that Wilson had threatened to burn the residence down and within minutes the fire was discovered. The fire spread to a second residential structure where two residents were home, which accounts for Wilson’s four attempted murder charges.
CFO Sink’s State Fire Marshal Bureau has six accelerant detection K-9 teams located statewide. Bureau K-9 handlers responded to 435 requests for assistance in 2009.
Florida CFO Alex Sink announced the success of three educational seminars held in the Panhandle last week to inform and provide training information to employers, contractors and business representatives to ensure compliance with workers’ compensation laws. Seminars were held in Panama City, Shalimar and Pensacola by CFO Sink’s Division of Workers’ Compensation to address concerns by businesses in the Panhandle regarding their rights and responsibilities under Florida’s workers’ compensation law and the U.S. Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act.
Members from CFO Sinks’ Division of Workers’ Compensation and Consumer Services provided information on topics such as:
For more information on CFO Sink’s actions regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill view the Power point presentation given during the seminars: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/OilSpill/default.htm.
If you’re thinking about buying a new home, be on the lookout for a new type of home warranty. With the tough housing market, many sellers are throwing in a one-year home warranty as a purchasing incentive for possible buyers. The warranty may be presented as a guarantee that the buyer doesn’t get any “surprise” big expenses during the first year after purchasing the home, but not everything is covered.
One feature that can create confusion is that the warranty does not provide coverage for something that is already broken. When you hire a home inspector, make sure that they verify that the heating, air conditioning and other features are in working order. Appliance checks are not always part of a standard home inspection. Also, be aware that the contracts are often contracts of “inclusion,” in other words, only named items are covered.
Buyers should always read the warranty document thoroughly to understand what is covered.
If you have any questions regarding a warranty, contact the Department’s Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).
One of the major aims of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is to reduce health costs by reducing the need for healthcare later in life. The PPACA aims to achieve this by providing consumers with benefits that will encourage them to become healthier earlier in life. In the prior installments of this series the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate provided consumers with information related to various benefits that will become available to them this year and in the future. In this edition of the summer series, the Office would like to focus on preventative healthcare benefits that will be available to consumers.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has unveiled a listing of various preventative care services that will be available to consumers at a reduced or no cost in an effort to combat chronic illnesses. Treatments for obesity, alcohol abuse and depression are among the services that will be available to consumers in September 2010.
Under these regulations, new health plans beginning on or after September 23, 2010 must cover preventive services that have "strong scientific evidence" of their health benefits. Various preventative care services will be provided at little to no cost depending on the patient’s age, sex or if they are at a higher risk. The following are some of the new services that will be available to consumers:
Depending on your age and health plan type, you may have easier access to such services as:
Consumers should note that not everyone will be eligible for all services. Only people in insurance plans beginning after September 23, 2010, or in existing plans that change substantially will be able to get the discounted preventive services. For more information regarding preventative care services, consumers should visit http://www.healthcare.gov/.
As more information is available and additional changes become effective, the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate will generate advisories regarding preventative care services for consumers. More information regarding the PPACA can be found on the Insurance Consumer Advocate’s website at, http://www.myfloridacfo.com/ica/federalhealthcare.asp.
Last week when Hurricane Bonnie was threatening parts of Florida, some insurance companies issued a binding suspension. This means the insurance company will not allow applications for new policies or endorsements to increase existing coverage when a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for any part of the State of Florida.
Take the time to review your insurance needs before a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning is issued. If you have a mortgage closing scheduled during hurricane season, don’t wait until the last minute to purchase your homeowners insurance. A tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning could delay your closing since the insurance companies will suspend binding new policies or coverage increases to existing policies.
Don’t get caught in a situation where you don’t have the right insurance and it’s too late to acquire the coverage you need because of a binding suspension. If you have questions about coverage, ask your insurance agent to review your policy with you.
To verify the license of an insurance agent, please visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com. You may find out when a Hurricane Preparedness Event will be in your area by viewing our calendar linked here. Please check with us next week for more ideas.
Find out when a Hurricane Preparedness Event will be in your area on our calendar linked here. Check back with us next week for more ideas.
Thanks to this eViews’ reader for offering a message of warning:
From time to time all of us hire extra help.
I am one of those people who did not check references or available criminal records.
Mr. "X" moved in across the street from me and seemed so nice. He presented me his business card showing his business address, license, and insurance information. Mr. X was hired to work around the house.
However, Mr. X turned out to be unlicensed, uninsured and untrustworthy. Mr. X took property without asking and pawned it - I got a copy of the police report for my $4000.00 paint sprayer he stole and pawned.
The reader found out, after the fact, that Mr. X was recently convicted of pawning another person's property and has been convicted in the past of burglary, dealing in stolen property, writing a bad check, DUI and more.
Some convictions may be listed on the Clerk of the Court website in your community or through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website. It's easy and smart to check out anyone whom you may want to hire to do work around your home before it's too late. Don’t make it easy to become a victim, even a Google search can be a helpful resource.
Many prospective burglars case neighborhoods on a regular basis, checking out trash piles and showing up on recycle day, seemingly to check the recycle materials.
What the crooks are really doing is getting a good look at your property to see what can easily be stolen. Don't let it happen to you - support your neighborhood watch and check references before hiring.
The Florida Housing Help website can help connect struggling Floridians who may be at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure or may be facing mortgage fraud issues with assistance. For a schedule of workshops that include community partners and resources and offer great information for citizens, read the Florida Housing Help Calendar.
Every day, hundreds of Floridians fall victim to financial fraud. Many of these victims are trusting seniors who were misled into making risky or inappropriate financial investments including annuities and reverse mortgages by unscrupulous agents and scam artists. In response, CFO Sink created the Safeguard Our Seniors Task Force to develop solutions to better protect Florida seniors from falling victim to financial fraud.
Florida CFO Alex Sink’s Department of Financial Services hosted Safeguard Our Seniors workshops in Fort Walton Beach and Destin this past week as part of CFO Sink’s ongoing statewide initiative to protect seniors from financial fraud through education and increased awareness.
The Department of Financial Services was joined by a local victim of financial fraud who told her story, along with representatives from the department’s Division of Agent and Agency Services, the Division of Insurance Fraud and the Division of Consumer Services.
Over the last two years, CFO Sink’s Department ofFinancial Services has held more than 400 Safeguard Our Seniors events throughout the state to teach how to guard against fraud and scams targeting seniors.