FLORIDA CFO JEFF ATWATER'S eVIEWS NEWSLETTER

Volume 8 Number 6 February 11, 2011

HOME

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Many of you may not know that Florida’s Medicaid program accounts for 25 percent of the state’s total budget, approximately $20 million. What is even more astonishing is that an estimated 10 percent of that cost is attributed to Medicaid fraud. State economists believe that Medicaid is the state’s biggest cost driver, with projected increases exceeding $400 million this year. Fraud within the Medicaid system is costing us all, and we must find new ways to address and eliminate the fraud that is bleeding our state’s budget.

This week, I announced the appointment of five law enforcement members to the newly-formed Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force. The Strike Force was created during the 2010 Legislative Session to increase the coordination and effectiveness of programs and initiatives that work to prevent, detect and prosecute Medicaid and public assistance fraud.

The 11-member team consists of the Attorney General, who will serve as Vice Chair, the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, the State Surgeon General, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Palm Beach Sheriff Ric L. Bradshaw, Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, Hollywood Chief of Police Chadwick E. Wagner and Miami-Dade Police Division Chief Juan Jesus Santana.

This new partnership with Governor Scott, Attorney General Bondi and the law enforcement, regulatory and prosecutorial communities will create a system for sharing information and coordinating efforts that will lead to more aggressive detection and prosecution of Medicaid and public assistance fraud. I am looking forward to chairing the Task Force at our first meeting at the end of this month in Tallahassee.

Sincerely

Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


CFO Atwater's Strike Force Appointments

This week, CFO Atwater announced the appointment of five law enforcement members to the newly-formed Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force. The Strike Force was created during the 2010 Legislative Session to increase the coordination and effectiveness of programs and initiatives that work to prevent, detect and prosecute Medicaid and public assistance fraud. The Strike Force will consist of the following 11 members: the CFO as Chair, the Attorney General as Vice Chair, the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, the State Surgeon General and five members appointed by the CFO.

Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney: Since 1993, Katherine Fernandez Rundle has served Miami-Dade County as State Attorney. Prior to that, she dedicated 15 years as an Assistant State Attorney. As legal counsel to the Dade County Grand Jury, she presented hundreds of murder and capital cases and oversaw the issuance of reports that initiated major reforms in the areas of juvenile justice and revision of the building code following Hurricane Andrew.

Sheriff Ric L. Bradshaw, Palm Beach County: Sheriff Bradshaw is a career law enforcement professional responsible for leading the largest law enforcement agency in Palm Beach County. Sheriff Bradshaw has a successful track record of 38 years in law enforcement, rising through the ranks of the City of West Palm Beach Police Department. He is the Chairman of the County's Domestic Security Task Force, a member of the Executive Board of the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force and has been designated Who's Who in Academic Excellence in America.

Sheriff David Gee, Hillsborough County: Sheriff Gee is a lifelong resident of Hillsborough County and has served his community for over 33 years. He leads the tenth largest suburban law enforcement agency in the nation. Sheriff Gee is the recipient of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Patriot Award, the Boys and Girls Clubs Community Hero Award, two Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Medals of Valor and was named “Sheriff of the Year” by the National Crisis Intervention Team.

Chadwick E. Wagner, Chief of Police, City of Hollywood: Chief Wagner, a native of South Florida, started his career with the Hollywood Police Department in 1983 following his service in the United States Army. He was named Chief in 2008. Chief Wagner has been awarded the U.S. Attorney General’s “Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer” award and the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers “Officer of the Year” award.

Juan Jesus Santana, Division Chief, Miami-Dade Police Department: Chief Santana is a veteran law enforcement officer with more than 28 years of experience. The past 15 years, he has specialized in commanding investigative units. Chief Santana has extensive experience with investigating criminal misconduct involving government and government officials.


Florida CFO Jeff Atwater Creates Second PIP Squad in Tampa, Part of Ongoing Push to Put the Brakes on this Costly Crime

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater, who oversees the Department of Financial Services and the department’s sworn Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), has created a second Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Fraud Squad in Tampa to combat the growing number of staged accidents and fraudulent auto insurance claims.

“I am committed to ensuring resources get to the areas in need, establishing stronger coordination between our investigators and other law enforcement agencies and keeping targeted communities informed about how they can help combat this crime,” said CFO Atwater. “Our citizens should not have to foot the bill to line the pockets of criminals. We must act quickly to stop these losses and help Floridians keep their hard-earned dollars in their pockets.”

PIP fraud accounts for more than 40 percent of Florida’s annual insurance fraud referrals and, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Florida has three of the top five cities nationally for questionable claims associated with staged accidents—Tampa, Miami and Orlando. In 2009, Tampa experienced a 290-percent increase in questionable claims related to staged or caused accidents.

During the upcoming legislative session, CFO Atwater is recommending legislative policy solutions involving strengthening billing practices so only appropriate services rendered are covered, creating civil penalties so proceeds can be used to fund additional anti-fraud efforts and tightening requirements for clinic ownership.

PIP is one of two types of insurance coverage Florida drivers are required by law to carry and it typically provides $10,000 per person for medical bills, regardless of who is at fault. A single staged accident can generate tens of thousands of dollars in fraudulent claims.

Tampa’s newest PIP squad will be led by Lt. Darrell Wilson, who will oversee five detectives. The first squad is led by Lt. Carlos Rosario and also includes five detectives. PIP squads are also in place in Orlando, Miami, West Palm Beach and Plantation.


CFO Atwater Asks GCCF Claimants to Provide Input on Proposed Methodology

CFO Jeff Atwater is asking the state’s business community and BP Oil Spill claimants for their suggestions and any concerns regarding the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) and Fund Administrator Ken Feinberg’s proposed methodology for victim compensation. Last week, Feinberg’s GCCF made public his recommendation on ways to award Final Claim compensation, which would also require claimants to waive any future right to sue BP, the GCCF or other parties involved with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

“Listening to the feedback and concerns and fighting for Floridians is a priority for me,” said CFO Atwater. “Businesses and families are being asked to sign their rights away for losses they have endured because of a completely preventable disaster. Public input should not be taken lightly by Ken Feinberg or BP.”

CFO Atwater is asking to hear from those who have constructive feedback and suggestions on Feinberg’s proposed methodology and recommended solutions for a process that is fair, transparent and attainable. Feinberg’s proposed methodology is posted on the GCCF website: http://www.gulfcoastclaimsfacility.com/methodologylanding.php.

CFO Atwater asks suggestions be submitted through DFS' website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com or e-mailed to CFOConsumerServices@MyFloridaCFO.com so he and his Department of Financial Services can collect and compose additional recommendations to provide to Feinberg and other officials before the February 16, 2011, GCCF deadline.

The Department of Financial Services has been actively helping claimants since the spill. Here are two of their stories.

For Sharon, the reality was there were no new customers coming to her 13- year-old restaurant and jazz club. The patrons stopped coming. Sharon started looking for someone to help her and her business partner keep from losing not only their business, but also their homes, which were used as collateral on their business financing.

Gary and Ellen moved to Florida several years ago to open a fishing business in the memory of their son. Things were going great until April 20, 2010, when all of a sudden people stopped making reservations for boat tours and fishing trips. The European clientele that usually kept them busy during the winter months cancelled their trips when they saw oil gushing from a broken well head every time they turned on the news.

In times of despair and stress, Gary, Ellen and Sharon all found help from the Department of Financial Services and at the same time found support in each other. They became friends and shared news, information and resources that helped guide them through some tough times. DFS helped get their claims paid from GCCF.

Do you need some help and resources to deal with the oil spill and Gulf Coast Claims Facility  process? Visit our website at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/OilSpill/ for help and assistance with the claims process.


Enforcement Roundup

This column will regularly highlight the work of the department’s enforcement divisions. This week features recent activity by detectives within the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, a sworn law enforcement agency within the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Dade City man arrested for planting incendiary devices in home marked for demolitionRoscoe Cayton Davidson Jr., 72, of Dade City, was arrested Monday on an attempted arson charge for allegedly planting five homemade incendiary devices throughout his Church Avenue home. Demolition crews were scheduled to begin removing the home on Monday and reported finding suspicious hobby fuses running out of several doors and windows of the residence. Davidson faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted on the charge.

Duval County man tries to set fire to church
Faheem H. Johnson, 20, was booked into the Duval County Jail on charges of arson, burglary, and criminal mischief to a place of worship. The fire was limited to papers that had been hung on a door to the church, and a window had been broken as well. When an arson detective caught up with Johnson he had a butane lighter, his hands were found to have ash deposits on them, and rocks were found in his pockets. If convicted on all the charges, Johnson faces up to 30 years in prison.

Orlando man arrested for attempting to burn car
Chad Hendrick, 36, told detectives “his career was almost over and that he wanted to go out with a bang,” and that was why he tried to set fire to his 2008 Ford Explorer. Hendrick was arrested last Friday and booked him into the Orange County Jail on second degree arson. Bond was set at $5,000. Damage to the vehicle was estimated at $2,000.


Teach Your Children Good Financial Habits

Teaching good financial habits at a young age can help your child to have a brighter financial future.

Start out small. Does your child receive an allowance? Discuss putting money aside in a piggy bank and teach your child about the principles of saving for a future purchase.

Want to go a step further? Consider opening a savings account for your child and discuss the basic principles of accruing interest on money that is put into the account.

CFO Jeff Atwater encourages Floridian’s of all ages to take the time to learn good financial habits. Financial education tips and tools are available on the Family Fiscal Fitness website at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/FamilyFiscalFitness/.

Are you eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)? If you meet the low to moderate-income guidelines outlined by the IRS for working individuals or families, you may be eligible for an income tax credit that could reduce the tax amount that you owe and in some cases may also provide you with a refund. To find out if you qualify for the EITC, visit the IRS website, http://IRS.gov.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater's eViews 1-877-MY-FL-CFO