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

Volume 2, Number 22, May 30, 2005    

Our Senior Resource Center website now features a web-enabled database that will help Florida’s seniors comparison shop for their prescription drugs.  The low-price information can be found by logging on to www.flseniors.net/prescriptiondrugs/.

The process is simple – choose the county of residence and the prescription drug in the drop-down menus, and the available prices in the area will be displayed, starting with the lowest price. The locations and phone numbers of the pharmacies will be listed for shopping convenience.

The top most-prescribed drugs in Florida will be available to search, through data provided by the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Florida is now home to more than 2.9 million Floridians over the age of 65, and these seniors have so much to keep up with – their health, family and finances. More than ever they are going on-line for information and assistance.  This page on our senior website will link seniors directly to the lowest prices for the prescription drugs they need. I hope this will be a valuable resource for seniors, the families or those charged with their care.

The site also features links for seniors to organizations offering information on free and discounted prescription drugs.  Other resources on the website offer extensive information about Medicare, insurance plans and long-term care options. There are also many tips for seniors on avoiding financial scams and identity theft.

Seniors who don’t have access to a computer at home, through a friend or a local library, can call the department toll-free at 1-800-342-2762 to get more information and order brochures on many health, insurance and financial topics.

As we remember those Americans who throughout history have made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting our freedoms – and the freedom of others around the world – let’s also remember those in the military today.  Thousands of Florida’s best and bravest are on active duty for us this Memorial Day.  Please join Laura and me in a prayer for their safe return to their loved ones.

                     -- Tom Gallagher


CFO ON COURT RULING THAT CITIZENS POLICYHOLDERS BE MADE WHOLE

“In March, I asked Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to drop individual lawsuits they had with their policyholders and to seek an expedited resolution of claims involving Florida’s valued policy law," CFO Gallagher stated.  “Thousands of storm victims, especially in the Panhandle, have suffered for far too long without resolution of their claims."

"On May 26, Second Judicial Circuit Court Judge Kevin P. Davey ruled from the bench and upheld a previous district court of appeal ruling that policyholders are entitled to being made whole when damage is caused by both wind and flood."

“This ruling reinforces what I have said all along - the people in Pensacola, whose homes were destroyed more than eight months ago, must be made whole.  I applaud Judge Davey’s ruling and urge Citizens and all insurers to immediately comply with the ruling,”  Gallagher said.  
 


GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES PROGRAM TO HELP MILITARY FAMILIES WITH INSURANCE DECISIONS

Website, Educational Materials and Consumer Tools Now Available

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced a new program to help military families make more informed insurance decisions.  The program is the result of collaboration with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Better Business Bureau.  Gallagher oversees the Florida Department of Financial Services. 

“Our military men and women face unusual strains as they fight the war on terror and continue the battle to free Iraq and Afghanistan.  Their families are also under a lot of stress,” said Gallagher.  “We need to look for ways to simplify their lives, to ease the strain on their finances and to protect them from getting ripped off.  This program aims to accomplish these goals.” 

The program addresses a variety of schemes agents have used to sell unnecessary or substandard life insurance policies to service personnel.  In fact, the site lists the agents who have been barred or suspended from selling insurance on military bases.  Additionally, it provides information on both private life insurance products and also the Serviceman and Veteran Group Life Insurance plans.

There is also valuable information on homeowners, auto, renters and health insurance, in addition to information that explains the guidelines on lapsed policies and cancellations.  There is contact information for all of the state insurance departments and links for filing complaints with the various consumer services divisions.  Links to legal assistance websites and to the Better Business Bureau are also included.

To access the website go to www.naic.org/market_regulation/military_life_issues.htm.

Or go to http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Consumers/publications.htm for consumer guides with information on insurance issues specific to Florida, including hurricane preparedness.  Florida guides can also be ordered by calling 1-800-342-2762, the Florida Department of Financial Services Consumer HelpLine.


GALLAGHER: CONSIDER OPTIONS FOR INSURING VACATION

With many Floridians preparing for summer vacation – some to exotic locations far from home – Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is advising consumers to consider options for ensuring their trips don’t get rained out.

Floridians can purchase insurance policies to protect their travel plans from unforeseeable circumstances, including trip cancellation, early return and emergency medical needs.  Some plans may pay in the event of baggage loss or delay, or evacuation due to a natural disaster.

“A good travel policy should reimburse you for deposits for a cruise, or other trip, if it turns out you won’t be able to go or if you have to leave early,” Gallagher said.  Gallagher also advised consumers to read the fine print before making a purchase as the policies often contain exclusions for coverage.  Consumers should also obtain a schedule of benefits and a certificate of coverage, which outline coverage and limitations of the policy.

According to Gallagher, travel insurance makes the most sense for individuals going on an adventure vacation or to an area far from medical facilities.    

“Travel insurance can act as a parachute, bringing you and your pocketbook in for a safe landing if things go wrong on your trip,” Gallagher said.  “However, Floridians should choose carefully.  Many plans may contain exclusions which can still leave you stranded.”

Travel insurance may be sold as part of a trip package; however, consumers should determine the name of the insurance company underwriting the policy and verify that it is licensed in Florida.  Consumers can verify the license of the insurance company or agent by calling the Department of Financial Services toll free at 1-800-342-2762 or by logging on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com.


TWO CHARGED WITH STAGING ACCIDENT, FILING FALSE CLAIM

Two Broward County men are facing felony fraud charges after a state investigation determined they staged an accident in January and then filed fraudulent insurance claims for injuries that did not occur.

Jesse Demetro, 20, of Hallandale, and Anthony Nicholas, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, are each facing charges of organized scheme to defraud, insurance fraud and second-degree grand theft.  Demetro was arrested Tuesday and Nicholas on May 18.  The charges follow an investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud.  If convicted on the charges, each will face up to 50 years in prison.

“This is a rampant and costly crime that affects every Floridian,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the department.  “We are going to continue to go after every suspect and, when we find evidence of a crime, bring them to justice.” 

Detectives said they found that Demetro and Nicholas conspired and participated in a staged accident on January 27, 2004, in Broward County, and then both got tests and treatment at Plantation General Hospital.  As a result, they also filed an insurance claim for medical expenses with Republic Western Insurance Company and received benefits totaling more than $12,800.  They also filed a claim for more than $17,000 in damage to a 2003 Mercedes Benz.

The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance.  Anyone with information about this case or another possible fraud scheme should call the department's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.  A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
 


MAN CHARGED WITH INSURANCE APPLICATION FRAUD AND THEFT

A man who allegedly lied on his application for disability income insurance and then filed a claim one week after getting the policy is facing felony charges of application fraud, first-degree grand theft and first-degree insurance fraud.

Bruce Sutherland, 43, was arrested Friday on the charges following an investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud.   He has a real estate license but claimed he was unable to work due to panic attacks.  If convicted on the charges, he potentially faces up to 65 years in prison.

“Fraud drives up the cost of insurance for every Floridian and makes it harder for families to get the coverage they need,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the department. 

The investigation began after the Illinois Mutual Life Insurance Company forwarded information that indicated Sutherland misrepresented information about his occupation, income, and medical history on an application for disability income insurance.  Department detectives said medical and hospital records confirmed that Sutherland provided false information regarding his medical history, and documents from the Social Security Administration indicated he provided false salary information as well.      

Based on his application, Sutherland was issued a Disability Income Policy that provided a monthly disability benefit of $3,000 until he turned 65.  Sutherland’s maximum benefit for disability would have been approximately $828,000.  The claim ultimately was denied.

The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance.  Anyone with information about this case or another possible fraud scheme should call the department's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.  A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
 


 


Consumer Services HelpLine
(800) 342-2762.