My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Here’s a story that may sound familiar: a family makes a rushed and likely stressful trip to a local emergency room—they’re treated, pay their co-pay and are on their way. A few weeks later, they begin to receive surprising and sometimes costly bills from a provider who provided care during their visit. Apparently, the provider was not a part of the family’s insurance network, so the insurance company has only agreed to pay a small portion of the provider's cost, and the provider has billed the rest directly to the patient. This is a process known as balance billing, and whether or not you’re familiar with the term, you’ve likely been affected personally or know someone who has struggled with this issue.

We know that you carry insurance to defray the cost ofInsurance Consumer Advocate Seal unexpected medical care, and we believe there’s a better solution to this important issue that often leaves you as the consumer in the middle of a daunting billing equation involving the provider and your insurance company.

That’s why Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate, Sha’Ron James, is bringing people on all sides of this issue together for a forum designed to create a balanced approach to unexpected medical expenses. I’ve appointed Ms. James to represent all policyholders when insurance decisions are made. Her role is to offer guidance and a voice to the people of Florida, and she’s inviting you to make your voices heard on this matter.

The forum will be hosted next Thursday, October 15th, at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. During an all day event, full of presentations from the medical community, insurance industry, as well as consumer advocacy groups, we will learn how balance billing impacts overall health care affordability, how other states have addressed this consumer issue and what state leaders can do to find the right approach to manage this issue in Florida.

If you’ve been through a balance billing situation and you’re able to make the trip to Tallahassee, we invite you to join the conversation and address the panel of insurance, consumer, and medical experts who will be at the table for this critical discussion. If you’re unable to make the trip, or you’d rather not participate in person, I encourage you to write down your thoughts and email them to the Advocate’s Office, or give them a call to share your experience. It’s only by hearing your stories that we can effect positive change.

To view the agenda and other materials, visit the Insurance Consumer Advocate’s website at: Written testimony may be submitted by emailing the Insurance Consumer Advocate, Sha’Ron James, at You can also reach the Office of the ICA by calling 850-413-5923.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater Invites Floridians to Honor Fallen Firefighters during Annual Memorial Service at Florida State Fire College

This week, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater will join firefighters from across Florida Fallen Firefighter Memorial in OcalaFlorida to honor members of the fire service community who have lost their lives in the line of duty during the annual Florida Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala.

Carl A.R. Lommler of the Longwood Fire Department and Frank R. Vigh of the Orange County Fire Department will be memorialized during this year’s ceremony.

WHAT: Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service

WHEN: Friday, October 9, 2015 at 9:30 A.M. EST

WHERE: Florida State Fire College, 11655 NW Gainesville Road, Ocala, Fla. 34482

The service will also be live streamed via this link.

CFO Atwater and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Collaborate to Empower Survivors of Domestic Abuse

~Financial instability is a primary obstacle for survivors~

October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is partnering with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) to announce a brand-new onlineFlorida Coalition Against Domestic Violence link initiative called Your L.I.F.E., which stands for Learn Individual Financial Empowerment, to help survivors gain a better understanding of money management and how to prepare for financial security.

Studies show that finances play a significant role in situations of domestic abuse. Whether an abuser manipulates finances as a form of abuse or a survivor feels incapable of escaping an abusive situation because of financial struggles, finances often create a barrier to creating a life free from abuse.

"It takes true courage and strength to take a stand against domestic violence, and I ask Floridians to stand with me. Everyone deserves to hold their financial future in their own hands, and, by empowering survivors of domestic violence to gain fiscal independence, we hope to help end financial abuse," said CFO Jeff Atwater. "This initiative will ensure that Floridians seeking greater financial security will have the tools they need available."

While financial abuse is a common tactic used by abusers, it is not widely understood, making it one of the most powerful methods of trapping a survivor in an abusive relationship. It also lessens the ability of a survivor to stay safe should they decide to leave. In 98 percent of abusive relationships, survivors list concerns about the ability to provide financially for themselves and their children as one of the top reasons for staying in or returning to an abusive relationship.

"Economic justice and financial independence are consistently identified as top needs by survivors of domestic violence. Behind fear, survivors often cite income, employment and financial stability as the strongest deterrents to leaving abuse situations. Survivors are often faced with the devastating choice of leaving behind a home, income, benefits and economic security in exchange for seeking safety away from violent perpetrators. FCADV is thrilled to work with CFO Atwater on the Your L.I.F.E. partnership that will not only promote financial literacy and economic justice, but will save lives by providing survivors with the tools they need to begin to live independently and free from violence," said FCADV President/CEO Tiffany Carr.

The effects of financial abuse can be devastating. Ruined credit scores, sporadic employment history and legal issues caused by abuse make it extremely difficult to gain financial independence and long term financial security.

The Your L.I.F.E. website provides resources that cover topics including budgeting, saving, repairing damaged credit, managing debt and more. The website contains built-in mechanisms that allow an individual to quickly exit the program should they need to conceal their educational efforts from an abuser. To access Your L.I.F.E. information, visit the Department’s Your Money Matter$ website. Visit FCADV at

Middle School Billboard challenge linkChallenge Your 6th-12th Graders to 'Learn to Save' Creatively

It’s never too early to start saving for the future, and CFO Jeff Atwater is challenging Florida students to do just that. Florida’s “Learn to Save” Challenge encourages students to show how financial literacy is important.

High School Public Service Announcemnt linkMiddle and high school students are encouraged to creatively illustrate the importance of financial literacy for a chance to win monetary prizes and have their creation displayed in their region. The challenge was designed to nurture students’ ambition to gain financial knowledge on topics like budgeting and saving, and now is the perfect time to jump start their preparation for sound financial futures.

Middle school students will create a billboard that shows how saving, budgeting or banking is important now and in the future. High school students will develop a creative 30-second Public Service Announcement video to promote financial literacy and financial preparedness. First, second and third-place winners will be chosen from each of five designated regions: Northwest Florida, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and South Florida.

Please share this information with your children, students, family and friends. ALL entries must be submitted by 11:59 pm on October 31, 2015. For additional details, visit

Inside Florida's Bottom Line: Current Edition

Florida's Bottom Line: International TradeAs the ever-innovating world economy continues to diversify and expand, Florida must continue to make strategic investments in order to remain a key player in major global trade lanes. These investments are already at work deepening our ports to accommodate larger ships and strengthening rail lines to increase the speed at which goods flow through our state. Additionally, with the completion of the Panama Canal Expansion Project, Florida is poised to capitalize on one of the largest international trade advancements in modern time.

This edition of Florida’s Bottom Line highlights Florida’s growing presence as a hub for international trade, and its readiness to grow alongside global markets. Inside, you will find commentary from international trade experts in Florida, an update on Florida’s economy, and the facts behind why Florida remains one of the most business-friendly states in the U.S.

Florida's Bottom Line website keeps you up-to-date on Florida's economy and finances in between quarterly editions of CFO Atwater’s economic magazine

Florida Economic Briefs

National unemployment rate unchanged in September
In September, the unemployment rate held at 5.1 percent, unchanged from the previous month and down 0.8 percentage points from last year (5.9 percent). Florida’s unemployment rate for September will be released on October 16th.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Florida’s personal income growth outpaces the nation
Florida’s personal income rose 1.1 percent in the second quarter, 0.2 percentage points higher than the national income growth of 0.9 percent. Florida ranks 11th in the nation for personal income growth during the second quarter.
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Stop Adult Financial Exploitation

Operation S.A.F.E.Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater invites you to participate in Operation S.A.F.E., Be Scam Smart, a free workshop for seniors, their families, and caregivers.

The Florida Department of Financial Services launched Operation S.A.F.E. (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) as part of CFO Atwater’s On Guard for Seniors initiative. Be Scam Smart workshops help inform, empower, and protect Florida’s seniors from financial scams and fraud. If you want to make sure your savings are protected, register for this workshop and get a better understanding of how scam artists and scams work.

Be Scam Smart by learning more about:

  • The Psychology of a Scam
  • How to Spot Fraudulent Behavior
  • Common Scams that Target Seniors
  • How to Fight Identity Theft
  • Resources to Keep You Safe

Find out more about us in the About Us section or Register for an upcoming event, including the following workshops:

  • Thursday, October 22nd - Fort Walton Beach
    10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
    The Meridian at Westwood
    1001 Mar Walt Drive, Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32547
    Register | Directions | Flyer