FLORIDA CFO ALEX SINK'S CONSUMER EVIEWS NEWSLETTER

Volume 7 Number 46 November 12, 2010

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Dear Floridian:

Our state is home to more than 1.6 million veterans who have bravely served our country. This week in honor of Veterans Day, I was happy to report on the success of “Florida Vets Connect,” an initiative led by my Department in collaboration with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. This new initiative has enabled our state to contact more than 30,000 veterans in just four months and let them know about benefits they may be entitled to – all at no cost to taxpayers.

It is so important that we honor our military by showing our appreciation and thanks on Veterans Day and also by ensuring that our veterans are receiving the help to which they are entitled. I hope you were able to take the opportunity yesterday to honor our nation’s heroes, and I commend all the public servants who are working to make “Florida Vets Connect” a success!

Sincerely,

Alex Sink
CFO
State of Florida


‘Florida Vets Connect’ Connects Nearly 30,000 Florida Veterans with Benefits

Florida CFO Alex Sink today announced that the ‘Florida Vets Connect’ initiative, designed to better recognize Florida’s veterans and provide them with information about the benefits they may be entitled to through their brave service to our country, has already contacted nearly 30,000 Florida veterans.

“The success of this initiative is a testament to the commitment of our state to honor our veterans with the benefits that they’ve earned,” said CFO Sink. “Every day of the year, but especially on the eve of Veterans Day, it’s important to recognize the sacrifice of our veterans and their families.”

This joint initiative with the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) and the Florida Department of Highway and Safety Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) allows veterans to voluntarily identify their veteran status when applying for or renewing a license or ID card. Their contact information is then used by Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs to ensure Florida’s veterans are provided information about the benefits to which they may be entitled.

At no cost to taxpayers, ‘Florida Vets Connect’ utilizes driver license offices as an intake point to gather information on veterans not currently in the state system. The DHSMV collects, stores, and makes this information available to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The program began during the regular DHSMV system update in July.

“I commend CFO Sink and her team for the idea and for facilitating implementation of Florida Vets Connect,” said DHSMV Executive Director Julie L. Jones. “The initiative uses the Department’s existing resources to help more veterans gain access to benefits they have earned through their military service, and DHSMV is proud to partner with FDVA.”

"We also acknowledge the superb efforts of the late LeRoy Collins Jr. in implementing this worthwhile initiative," said FDVA Interim Executive Director Bob Milligan.

More than 1.6 million veterans live in Florida, but as of July, the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs only had accurate contact information for approximately 700,000. Nationwide, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine reported more than $22 billion in veterans' pension funds go unclaimed annually.


CFO Sink Calls on Florida Legislature to Override Veto of Cost-Saving Risk Management Reforms

Florida CFO Alex Sink on Tuesday called on the Florida Legislature to override Governor Charlie Crist’s veto of her risk management legislation (HB 5603) during the upcoming special session. The legislation addresses the rising costs of workers’ compensation claims in the state risk management program, and passed the Florida Legislature unanimously.

“This common-sense legislation is all about holding state agencies accountable and emphasizing loss prevention and return-to-work programs,” said CFO Sink. “The Florida Legislature was wise to pass this during the regular session, and I encourage legislators to put taxpayers first by overriding Governor Crist’s veto.”

Based on CFO Sink’s recommendations, key elements of the legislation establish return-to-work programs for certain state agencies, basing premiums on actual loss experience, and enable the Division of Risk Management with the responsibility to evaluate state agencies’ risk management programs as well as recommend corrective authority.

In January, CFO Sink announced $12 million in taxpayer savings through businesslike reforms in her Division of Risk Management, including refocusing on loss prevention and addressing agencies with the highest claims numbers. These reforms were based on business best practices and advice from private sector risk management experts and led to the creation of the CFO Sink’s Risk Management Advisory Council.

CFO Sink’s Division of Risk Management is responsible for identifying and controlling exposure to loss or injury resulting from the daily operation of Florida’s government. Through the Florida Department of Financial Services, the Division of Risk Management delivers sound, professional guidance to Florida’s 48 state agencies and universities to help control loss and mitigate risk.


Florida Financial Literacy Council Seeks Nominations for Literacy Award

Each year the Florida Financial Literacy Council (FFLC) selects an individual or organization that possesses a strong commitment to financial literacy education in Florida to receive the Champion of Financial Literacy Award which is presented in June. The FFLC will accept nominations for the 2011 Champion of Financial Literacy Award through November 30, 2010. To learn more about the financial literacy award application process, visit http://www.myfloridamoney.com/FFLC_COFLAward.htm.

CFO Sink is a strong proponent of financial literacy. The Department of Financial Services Division of Consumer Services delivers programs in local communities to educate consumers on topics such as the wise use of credit cards for teens, credit card identity theft, hurricane preparedness, small business security, life insurance and first-time homebuyer workshops.

Read our upcoming calendar of events by region. If you would like to request an event for your organization or group, please visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call (850) 413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877- 693-5236).


Insurance Consumer Advocate Terry Butler Recognizes November as Diabetes Awareness Month

Terry Butler, Interim Insurance Consumer Advocate

In recognition of November as Diabetes Awareness Month, the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate would like to provide consumers with information regarding diabetes and insurance coverage. The disease affects more than 26 million people in the U.S. alone.

Diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels in the body consistently stay above normal. Insulin is one of the main hormones that regulates blood sugar levels and allows the body to use sugar for energy. Insulin is produced by the pancreas to control blood sugar. Diabetes is a result of the body’s inability to make insulin (type 1), or by the body not responding to the effects of insulin (type 2).

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood but many patients are diagnosed when they are older than age 20. In this disease, the body makes little or no insulin and daily injections of insulin are needed. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. Type 2 usually occurs in adulthood, but young people are increasingly being diagnosed with this disease due to increasing obesity and failure to exercise.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include fatigue, increased thirst, increased urination, nausea, vomiting and weight loss in spite of increased appetite. Patients with type 1 diabetes usually develop symptoms over a short period of time, and the condition is often diagnosed in an emergency setting.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include fatigue, increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite and blurred vision. However, because type 2 diabetes develops slowly, some people with high blood sugar experience no symptoms at all.

There is no cure for diabetes. Treatment involves medicines, diet, and exercise to control blood sugar and prevent symptoms. In the United States, 54 million people over age 20 have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. This is known as pre-diabetes. While people with pre-diabetes usually have no symptoms, it’s almost always present before a person develops type 2 diabetes. Consumers should note that complications normally associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, can begin to develop even when a person has only pre-diabetes.

All health insurance policies sold in Florida must provide coverage for all medically appropriate and necessary equipment, supplies, outpatient self-management training and educational services used to treat diabetes, if the patient’s treating physician or a physician who specializes in the treatment of diabetes certifies that such services are necessary.

The policy may require that outpatient self-management training and educational services for diabetes be provided under the direct supervision of a certified diabetes educator or a board-certified endocrinologist. The policy may further require that nutrition counseling be provided by a licensed dietitian.

There are many treatments that allow patients to live and control their diabetes, but they come at an inevitable cost. Consumers should consult their policy or insurance provider regarding information related to obtaining preventative care services to help prevent the onset of diabetes. In addition, those who are living with the disease (type 1 or 2), should also review their policy to ensure their coverage needs are being met.

Consumers that have any additional questions regarding preventative care coverage or coverage for diabetes should contact the Division of Consumer Services within the Department of Financial Services on-line at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/ or by phone at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236), toll-free in Florida, and (850) 413-3089 from out of state. Another good source of information is an Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) website found at www.floridahealthfinder.gov. AHCA was also used as a reference guide for information contained in this article.

The Insurance Consumer Advocate is appointed by Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and is committed to finding solutions to insurance issues facing Floridians, calling attention to questionable insurance practices, promoting a viable insurance market responsive to the needs of Florida’s diverse population and assuring that rates are fair and justified.


Consumer Corner: Cold Weather Safety Tips

The cold weather is here and as State Fire Marshal CFO Alex Sink encourages Floridians to take the following steps to help ensure a safe and happy season.

Preparing your family

Preparing your home

Safe Home Heating Tips

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are non-specific and include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sleepiness, trouble breathing, and loss of consciousness. Severe poisonings may result in permanent injury or death. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911, get the victim to fresh air immediately, and open windows.


Hurricane Checklist: Learn to Identify Hazards after a Disaster

Each year, Floridians encounter natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornados. The following are hazards you should be aware of to protect yourself and your family after a hurricane or tornado:

Chemical Safety

Electrical Safety

Gas Safety

Generator Safety

Heating Safety

And remember...

Source: FEMA

Florida Housing Help in Brooksville

Florida CFO Alex Sink’s Department of Financial Services will offer a Florida Housing Help workshop tomorrow in Brooksville. Struggling homeowners will be able talk to certified HUD counselors about foreclosure issues and options as well as speak to representatives from Chase Bank along with other community resources. The workshop is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 200 Mt. Fair Avenue, Brooksville, Florida 34601.

To date, CFO Sink’s Department of Financial Services held nearly 150 Florida Housing Help workshops across Florida, helping more than 14,000 Florida homeowners connect with their lenders or housing counselors. Details on CFO Sink’s Florida Housing Help initiative and a calendar of upcoming Florida Housing Help events can be found at http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/FloridaHousingHelp.


Safeguard Our Seniors: Medicare Open Enrollment Begins

Each year plans change what they cost and what they cover. The annual enrollment period is November 15, 2010, through December 31, 2010. During this time, individuals with Medicare can add, drop or change their prescription drug coverage. They can also select a health plan for their 2011 coverage.

The 2011 Medicare Health and Drug Plan information can be found at the following link: https://www.cms.gov/Partnerships/downloads/statefactsheets_all.pdf.

For additional information on Medicare visit Medicare.gov or call 1-800 MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)

For financial tips and information on Safeguard Our Seniors, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call the Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877- MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).


My Family CFO: Contributing to Your Retirement through Market Ups and Downs

Contributing steadily to your retirement account is an important part of your long-term investment strategy. After all, it is the long term you are saving for, and savings success is leveraged by time.

A technique that makes financial sense is dollar cost averaging, or a constant dollar plan.

With this technique, a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment is purchased on a regular schedule, regardless of the share price. More shares are purchased when prices are low, and fewer shares are bought when prices are high. Eventually, the average cost per share will become smaller. With dollar cost averaging, trying to time price movements is not an issue. Dollar-cost averaging helps lessen the risk of investing a large amount in a single investment at the wrong time.

For example, you decide to purchase $100 worth of XYZ each month for three months. The first month, XYZ is worth $33, so you buy three shares. The second month, XYZ is worth $25, so you buy four shares this time. Finally, XYZ is worth $20 in the third month, so you buy five shares. In total, you purchased 12 shares for an average price of about $25 each. The average price of the shares over the same period was $27.

Dollar cost averaging won’t protect you from a loss in a declining market, but it can lower your average purchase price, increasing your long-term gains. Time enhances the effectiveness of dollar cost averaging, so you should plan to continue contributing over the long term.

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's Consumer eViews 1-877-MY-FL-CFO