Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 1, Number 51, December 20, 2004     
 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

The four hurricanes and tropical storm that Florida experienced this year have afforded us the opportunity to think about and help those victimized by these disasters. Individually and collectively, we have stepped up to the plate in remembering and assisting those in need.

Although this year’s storms have passed, let us work hard to maintain that spirit of generosity, not only during this traditional season of giving, but also throughout the upcoming year as well.

May this holiday season be an especially joyous time for enjoying family and friends, but most importantly, let it be a time of continued giving.

Best wishes,

                      -- Tom Gallagher


GALLAGHER ASSURES STORM VICTIMS THAT A PROCESS TO APPLY FOR DEDUCTIBLE RELIEF WILL SOON BE IN PLACE

Florida lawmakers approved a measure - House Bill 9A - that will provide $150 million in financial assistance for Floridians faced with multiple hurricane deductibles. Those eligible will be reimbursed up to $30,000 to cover multiple deductibles applied to homeowners insurance policies.
 Storm victims will be responsible for paying their first deductible plus $100 toward each subsequent deductible.

The new law requires the state Department of Financial Services to promulgate rules governing eligibility and the application process. Pending the governor’s approval of the new law, the department will be assessing available data on policyholders with multiple deductibles and working with insurance companies to ensure all eligible Floridians are identified.

“Our goal is to get financial assistance to impacted Floridians as soon as possible,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “Applications from insurance companies to eligible Floridians should be in the mail by early January.” 

As part of their application, storm victims will need to provide proof from their insurance companies that a second or third deductible was applied.

The maximum reimbursement is limited to the amount of the policyholder’s loss in excess of one full deductible, but not more than $10,000 per policy for damage caused by two hurricanes, not more than $20,000 per policy for damage caused by three hurricanes, and not more than $30,000 per policy for damage caused by four hurricanes.

Once applications are completed, Floridians will need to forward them to the Florida Department of Financial Services. Submission instructions will be included in the application packet storm victims will receive.

The new law requires eligible Floridians to submit applications no later than March 1, 2005.

For more information, consumers can contact the department at 1-800-22-STORM or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com.

 


MULTIPLE DEDUCTIBLE REIMBURSEMENT PROGRAM QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

 

  1. What is the multiple deductible reimbursement program?

With four hurricanes in less than 45 days, the possibility of being charged more than one insurance deductible became a reality for many Floridians.   Paying more than one deductible was financially devastating to many.  On Dec. 16, the Florida Legislature approved a law to provide financial relief for storm victims who were charged more than one deductible when they filed claims with their insurance company. 

  1. What type of policies will be included in this disbursement?

The following type of contracts will be included in the disbursement:  Homeowners, Mobile Homes, Dwelling Fire, Renters, Condominium Unit Owners and Condominium Associations.    Commercial, Marine, Auto and any other types of insurance were not included. 

  1. How do I file for this type of reimbursement?

Your insurance company will provide you with the form to apply for the reimbursement.  If you do not hear from your company by January 22, call us for additional guidance. 

4. Are there any deadlines?

 Yes.  The form identifying the amount of the deductible, provided to the insured by the company, needs to be filed with the Department of Financial Services by March 1, 2005

5.  When the claim for reimbursement has been filed, how long before any reimbursement will be received?

 The deadline for the filing with the Department of Financial Services is March 1, 2005.  When the form is received by the Department, it will go through a verification process to make certain the amount for reimbursement is correct.  Processing time will depend on the number of reimbursement requests received by the Department.  Your reimbursement will be sent to you once processing is complete. 

6.  What is the limit for reimbursement?

 The maximum reimbursement is limited to the amount of the policyholder’s loss in excess of one full deductible, but not more than $10,000 per policy for damage caused by two hurricanes, not more than $20,000 per policy for damage caused by three hurricanes, and not more than $30,000 per policy for damage caused by four hurricanes.

             7.   Will I be reimbursed 100 percent of my out-of-pocket expenses or 100 percent of the deductible?

All reimbursements will be reduced by $100 of the total reimbursable amount. 

8.      How are the payments going to be made?

 The law states that the Department will reimburse those policyholders who paid two or more full deductibles first.  Then, those policyholders who met one full deductible and part of second or third deductible will be reimbursed.  Then, those consumers whose multiple deductibles add up to at least one full deductible will be reimbursed. 

       9. What if the consumer received a grant from FEMA (this is not to be confused with an SBA loan).  Is the consumer entitled to reimbursement? 

Reimbursement will not be paid for loss amounts for which the policyholder received a grant from FEMA or any other federal, state, county or municipal agency or program. 


POLICYHOLDERS OFFERED REPLACEMENT COVERAGE AS AMERICAN SUPERIOR HEADS INTO LIQUIDATION

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced that an insurance company has agreed to offer replacement homeowners’ coverage to the 60,000 Florida policyholders of American Superior Insurance Company. American Superior went into state receivership in late September.

Second Judicial Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom approved a consent order locking in the agreement between North Pointe Casualty Insurance Company and American Superior. At the same time, Judge Sjostrom ordered American Superior into liquidation.

“I am disappointed that American Superior could not be rehabilitated,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. As receiver, the department has been overseeing the company’s operations since Sept. 29. “But I am very pleased that these homeowners, who already have experienced so much anxiety, can begin the New Year knowing they will have insurance coverage.”

North Pointe will begin sending out letters today to American Superior policyholders providing them with information about the replacement coverage offer. North Pointe said it would offer payment options to policyholders who may be unable to pay premiums in full at this time because of financial hardship brought on by the storms.

The liquidation order calls for American Superior policies to be cancelled on Jan. 14, 2005. The department, as receiver, has overseen the payment of more than $50 million on 10,400 hurricane-related American Superior claims. Beginning today, claims will be paid by the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, which the Legislature created to cover claims when Florida-licensed insurance companies become insolvent.


North Pointe Casualty Insurance Company and affiliated company North Pointe Insurance Company are a part of the North Pointe group. North Pointe Casualty is licensed in Florida, Michigan, Nevada and Louisiana. North Pointe Casualty’s Florida office is located in Coral Gables.
 


SCENIC CYPRESS GARDENS REOPENS WITH NEW ATTRACTIONS

Located in Winter Haven, Cypress Gardens Adventure Park’s grand opening was a festive event with a ski show, hoop-skirted Southern belles and new roller coasters and rides. Not your grandparents’ Cypress Gardens of serene gardens and water acrobatics, but new excitement of the modern amusement park to complement the natural beauty and historical gardens. 

Founded in 1936 by water skier Dick Pope Sr., the botanical gardens and natural lake have been a popular destination for families making road trips through Central Florida. Disney opening in 1971 launched Orlando’s dominance in the vacation market. 

Cypress Gardens suffered from the competition and went through a series of ownerships through the years. In 2003 the Trust for Public Land purchased the park to save it from development.  

On January 27, 2004, Gov. Bush and the Florida Cabinet secured the future of Cypress Gardens as a Florida attraction by voting unanimously to place a conservation easement over the entire 150-acre property.  

“This is a dynamic use of Florida Forever funds,” commented Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher. “The Cypress Gardens many Florida residents and visitors remember is recaptured with its southern charm and exciting water ski shows. And the visitors who want a more exciting adventure can find that, too.” 

Polk County paid $2.5 million for 30 acres of the original botanical gardens and the state of Florida paid the trust $11 million for conservation rights for the entire property. Kent Buescher, who owns Wild Adventure theme park in Valdosta, Georgia, paid $7 million to buy the remaining 120 acres for the park. 

400 people have been hired to operate the attraction, and an arcade, animal exhibits, water park and a restaurant in the old mansion are planned. 

The 10-year, $3 billion Florida Forever program, which funded the state easement, conserves environmentally sensitive land, restores water resources and preserves cultural and historical resources. 



Consumer Services HelpLine
(800) 342-2762.