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My Florida C F O
Weekly eNewsletter from Florida's Chief Financial Officer

Dear Fellow Floridian:

America deserves real Medicaid reform.

The Florida Legislature is carefully considering whether Florida should expand Medicaid or suffer the penalties by choosing other alternatives.

The real question is: Will Florida place a portion of the uninsured into a Medicaid system that is wrought with fraud, often produces substandard medical outcomes, puts doctors in a bait-and-switch trap that only funds higher reimbursement rates for their services for less than 18 months, and puts Florida taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in new costs in the out years?

Washington originally promised the states the following:

  • These reforms will cover the uninsured.
  • These reforms will pay incentives for doctors to accept Medicaid.
  • These reforms will reduce premiums.
  • These reforms will reduce the federal deficit.

Though thousands of rules and regulations are still being written in Washington as to how these reforms will be administered, here is what we already know:

  • These reforms will still leave more than 25 million Americans uninsured.
  • These reforms only cover preferred reimbursement rates for doctors until 2015.
  • These reforms are causing higher premiums for everyone.
  • These reforms may add trillions of dollars to the federal deficit in the out years.

Floridians deserve better than a plan to double down on a system awash in fraud, that raises costs on everyone, burdens small businesses and yanks the rug out from under doctors.

Florida can instead implement reforms that can be far more proactive in getting Floridians enrolled in Medicaid and into a private plan with an assigned medical professional who will offer preventative care rather than only emergency room medicine.

As your CFO, I hold the responsibility of considering the impact of every new initiative and its associated cost on the state’s budget. Over the past 12 years, the federal Medicaid program has grown from a cost of $8.9 billion (17 percent of the state’s budget) to $21 billion (30 percent of the state’s budget). The growth rate of revenue to the state of Florida under the present tax code will not be able to continue covering the rapid rate of growth of this entitlement. If the cost of this entitlement continues to increase at this rate, either Florida will have to increase taxes on hardworking Floridians or cut other budgets—education, transportation, criminal justice, etc.

Florida should implement reforms that are centered on the patient and the doctor making health care decisions. And we should unite in a call for real reforms from Washington that truly focus on helping states develop creative, sustainable solutions that don’t bring states to the financial brink and in the final analysis provide healthcare that respects the needs and dignity of every American.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

Arrest in ‘Operation Dirty Money’ Scheme

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrest of Domenick Pucillo, one of the ringleaders in the fraud schemes targeted as part of continuing enforcement efforts under “Operation Dirty Money.” Pucillo filed false documentation with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation seeking to become a principal of I&T Financial Services, LLC, a business that allegedly was set up to execute a large-scale check-cashing scheme for the purposes of evading the cost of workers’ compensation coverage. During this investigation, approximately $1 million was seized by the Workers’ Compensation Fraud Task Force.Insurance Fraud Badge

The Task Force investigation revealed that Pucillo became business partners with Evelio Suarez in January 2012 to form I&T Financial Services, LLC. Suarez, a convicted felon, could not legally obtain a license to run a money service business, and therefore, Pucillo allegedly knowingly concealed the true identity of his business partner and instead listed a straw owner as the licensee of the business in order to obtain a license. Suarez was arrested in October 2012 on multiple charges including conspiracy to commit workers’ compensation fraud and grand theft. The individual listed as the straw owner is cooperating with the investigation.

Pucillo was arrested by agents from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and will be prosecuted by the office of Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle. Pucillo is charged with filing a false and fraudulent document, forgery, uttering a forged instrument and operating an unlicensed money service business. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 45 years in prison.

The Office of Financial Regulation assisted the task force by providing financial data support and licensure information.

The Workers’ Compensation Fraud Task Force was jointly created by CFO Atwater’s Division of Insurance Fraud and the Broward Sheriff’s Office in August 2011. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is now a partner in the Task Force as well. Through joint efforts, the task force has been able to successfully shut down 27 shell companies and identify $300 million in fraudulent transactions associated with these companies.

Anyone with information about these or any other incidents of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $275,000 to more than 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.

Financial Frontlines Launched For Military

CFO Atwater has launched Financial Frontlines, a new website to provide information and resources to help Florida’s 58,000 military servicemembers fight back against financial fraud and debt. Financial Frontlines is being released in collaboration with Military Saves Week, which continues through Saturday.Financial Frontlines

Financial trouble has been cited as the number one threat to servicemembers’ security clearance, and a recent report by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority found that nearly 27 percent of military families have at least $10,000 in credit card debt. Military Saves Week, which runs concurrently with Florida Saves Week, encourages military servicemembers and their families to save money and reduce their debt to build a solid financial future.

“Military servicemembers are well trained to protect our nation, but they may not be prepared for the financial risks they may also face,” CFO Atwater said. “Just as they are committed to protecting us, I am committed to protecting our brave servicemen and women from financial fraud and predatory lending.”Military America Saves Week

Major General Emmett Titshaw, the Adjutant General for the Florida National Guard, said he is grateful for the attention being given to Florida’s servicemember needs. “We applaud our state’s efforts to improve our servicemembers’ financial security. This recognition of the sacrifices our service men and women are making is appreciated.”

In addition to releasing the new website, the Department of Financial Services will provide financial presentations at military bases that are hosting Military Saves Week activities. Topics will include identity theft, credit scoring, budgeting, predatory lending and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The Financial Frontlines website includes online training presentations that can be accessed individually or for large training groups. Other online resources provided by CFO Atwater and the Department of Financial Services include Your Money Matters, On Guard for Seniors and an OnDemand Library in addition to the CFO’s toll-free Consumer Helpline at 1-800-My-FL-CFO (1-800-693-5236), available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, to answer questions and complaints relating to 26 lines of insurance.

News of Interest

Tampa Tribune: Florida starts website to help military personnel with finances

Reuters: Business spending plans gauge hits one-year high

Central Florida News 13: SpaceX rocket ready for Friday launch

Florida Today: Bill would ease way to farm more state lands

South Florida Business Journal: SBA streamlines loan requirements for small businesses

Orlando Business Journal: Publix takes top spot on Temkin customer service list

Florida's Bottom Line on Financial Health

Florida Economy 2012

Read the latest issue of Florida's Bottom Line, a quarterly publication about Florida's financial health, to get expert commentary on 2012 and a look at the year ahead.

In between issues visit the companion website to Florida's Bottom Line to stay updated as new statistics emerge. The website features news and data on jobs and the economy, as well as useful resources for small businesses. Also take a look at our infographic on Florida's Economy 2012 - a visual display of the financial stats for the past year.