My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

It’s that time of year again. The sixty-day sprint known as the Legislative Session has started. It’s also Consumer Protection Week, and the timing couldn’t be better. Consumer protection is what the next sixty days are all about. On an endless array of topics and in a variety of ways, lawmakers work every day to protect the 20 million people of Florida.

It’s the primary priority of my office as well. From keeping fraudsters out of your pockets to returning unclaimed money back into them, we’re always looking for ways to help our friends and neighbors.

We also work to address issues within the insurance market that can lead to higher premiums and higher prices for Florida families. In fact, we have several measures that we’re working on this legislative session that focus on insurance matters, and I’ll keep you updated as they progress.

I’d like to share with you a few of our recent consumer-centric successes in the insurance arena. These success stories come from our Division of Consumer Services, which operates our statewide Insurance Helpline. From Bay County to Broward and everything in between, we help consumers through insurance claims conundrums of all sorts.

  • After an unexpected trip to the ER, a Sarasota County consumer was admitted to the hospital, but her resulting medical claim was denied by her HMO for lack of prior authorization. One can never plan for an emergency, but nevertheless she was facing nearly $40,000 in medical bills — bills she had no way to pay.

    She heard about the Helpline and decided to give it a try. Helpline experts contacted the insurance company on her behalf to determine why the claim was denied when clearly prior authorization could not have been obtained. After Helpline experts asked questions, the company re-processed the claim and came back saying that a data entry error must have caused the accidental denial. In the end, they covered the claim and made the payments.
  • When a Citrus County consumer’s bank account went into the negative after his life insurance company debited more than the agreed-upon monthly premium payment amount, he called immediately to get it corrected. The company called it an error and agreed to refund the extra amount and cover the overdraft feeds he incurred.

    Regardless of what he was told, the check never came and the inflated monthly payment amount was withdrawn for a total of 11 months. Each time he called to complain, he heard the same thing: the check is in the mail.

    He called the Helpline, and our experts called the insurance company on his behalf. Quite quickly, a check for almost $975 arrived in his mailbox.
  • Tired of going back and forth with his mother’s long-term-care company about whether or not she qualified for in-home care, a Broward man contacted the Helpline for clarity about the specific coverage in her policy. The company claimed that his mother’s policy didn’t cover in-home care, but he felt strongly that it did.

    His instincts proved correct and the company came back saying that they were wrong, and that they would agree to pay for home care. They even cut a check for more than $3,000 to cover the claims that they had denied.

By and large, consumers have positive interactions with their insurance companies. Day in and day out, companies pay claims without issue. It’s the exception, not the rule, that a consumer will face a problem like the ones I’ve just described, but it does happen.

If it ever happens to you, I hope you’ll know that you’ve got someone to stand on your side and you can reach us at 1-877-693-5236.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


Florida's 2017 Economic OutlookFlorida's Bottom Line: Florida's 2017 Economic Outlook

Over the past year, Florida’s economy has seen profound growth in many areas and we have entered 2017 well-positioned to take advantage of these gains and continue to grow.

Florida’s economy is on the right track: private sector job growth increased and outpaced the nation; the housing market continues to grow; and our unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest levels in eight years. This economic momentum sets the stage for Florida to continue its hard work throughout 2017.

The current edition of Florida's Bottom Line, CFO Atwater's award-winning quarterly economic magazine, is focused on the opportunities that lie ahead as well as highlights of the progress that we have made in the past year. Inside, you will find an economic forecast and expert analysis on Florida from a leading economist, insightful outlooks on key emerging trends, commentary on what a new president may mean for Florida, and a look back on Florida’s economic achievements in 2016.

It is important to acknowledge that Florida’s economic future will continue to be shaped by the hard work and perseverance of Floridians. It is your dedication that not only allows us to build upon our accomplishments, but reach new heights of economic success and prosperity.

Operation S.A.F.E., Be Scam Smart Workshops

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.

Operation S.A.F.E.Be Scam Smart by learning more about:

  • How to Spot Fraudulent Behavior
  • Common Scams that Target Seniors
  • How to Fight Identity Theft

Feedback from seniors who attended a Be Scam Smart workshop:

“Savored every moment of this workshop. The information was needed and vital for seniors’ and consumers’ financial survival.” - West Palm Beach

“Presentations were great & well timed. Excellent information we all need to know.” - Pensacola

“Every senior in the city and state should attend the Be Scam Smart Workshop.” - Jacksonville

“Thank you for alerting us to the scam we as seniors are exposed to.” - Brandon


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

  • Tuesday, March 14th – Tallahassee
    11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
    Capital City Christian Church Fellowship Hall
    6115 Mahan Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32308
    Register | Directions | Flyer

Please let us know if you would like to request a workshop in your area.

Florida Economic Briefs

Retail activity increased in December
Retail activity increased 3.7 percent over the year. Retail activity averages taxable sales, which includes business investment, building investment, and tourism and recreation. Automobiles and accessories increased the most over the year (12.5 percent), followed by building investment (9.4 percent), and business investment (7.5 percent).
Source: Office of Economic and Demographic Research

Florida ranked seventh best economy in nation
In a recent report by U.S. News & World Report, Florida was ranked as having the seventh best economy in the nation. The report also specifically listed Florida as being first for entrepreneurship, fourth for job growth, and fifth for GDP growth.
Source: U.S. News & World Report