Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 4, Number 31, August 3, 2007

Fellow Floridian:

This Saturday at 10 a.m. in Orlando Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink commences the Department of Financial Services’ Unclaimed Property auction as guest auctioneer.  A selection of interesting, valuable and rare items will be up for bid under her gavel as she kicks off the day and her debut as an auctioneer for the state. 

The professionals will then take over and an intense day of auctioneering will clear out the vaults for another year. 

Personal property is turned over to the state by banks and credit unions from safe deposit boxes when the owners can’t be found. The state attempts to find the owners of the property with success in many cases.  

But when the owners can’t be located and the vault is full, an auction turns the goods into cash. 

The cash then goes into the state school trust fund to support public education in Florida. 

But owners and heirs can always claim their rightful funds from the state at any time, at no charge.   

Visit www.FLtreasurehunt.org to find out if the state is holding your money or property.


CFO SINK HOSTS HISPANIC ROUNDTABLE MEETING IN ORLANDO

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink hosted a roundtable meeting with local leaders in the Hispanic community in Orlando on Friday, August 3, 2007.  At the meeting, CFO Sink discussed issues affecting the Hispanic community in central Florida and her role as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.


FOR THE RECORD TV SHOW FEATURES CFO SINK

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was interviewed about issues of interest to Central Florida for the local news show For the Record during her recent visit to the Orlando area.

For the Record is a weekly discussion of the Orlando community’s critical topics with award-winning Orlando Sentinel editorial page editor Jane Healy and Central Florida News 13’s political reporter Scott Harris.

For the Record airs every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Central Florida News 13.

A video version will soon be available at this Web link.


CFO SINK REMINDS SELF-EMPLOYED ABOUT AUGUST OPEN ENROLLMENT FOR HEALTH INSURANCE 

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is urging self-employed Floridians to remember that August is open enrollment month for single-group employers to get health insurance or switch plans on a guaranteed-issue basis, meaning insurers and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) must offer coverage without regard to health status.  The open enrollment period continues through August 31, 2007.   

“Our small employers are the backbone of this state and I want to make sure they take advantage of this once-a-year opportunity to get health coverage,” said CFO Sink.  “There is no other time of year that coverage is guaranteed for the self-employed, so they should act now to get insurance or review their current policy.” 

The open enrollment period requires insurance companies and HMOs to offer applications for coverage to the self-employed on a guaranteed-issue basis from August 1 to August 31 each year, with a plan start date of October 1.  Companies that write coverage for small groups are required to offer Basic or Standard plans to the self-employed.   

A sole proprietor, independent contractor or self-employed individual can apply for coverage if all of the conditions and criteria established in the law are met, and certain documentation verifying the operation of an active business is provided, including tax forms, license information and business receipts, per Florida Statutes 627.6699(3)(u). 

A list of insurance companies offering coverage is posted on the Department of Financial Services' website at http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Consumers/small_group_market_carriers.htm

To learn more about plan options, visit
http://www.floir.com/lh_fr/is_LHFR_Small_Emp_Benefit_Plan.htm.

Coverage options for employers also include health savings accounts (HSAs) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).  HSAs, which operate like Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), allow people to save their own money in a tax-free account for use on health-related expenses. If the money is not spent, it will roll over annually and accumulate until the policyholder is age 65, at which time the money can be used for any purpose.

CFO Sink encourages consumers to contact the department's toll-free consumer helpline at 1-800-342-2762 or log on to MyFloridaCFO.com to request a free Health Insurance Guide or Small Business Owners’ Insurance guide.


HEALTHY KIDS AD HOC COMMITTEE TO SUGGEST  IMPROVEMENTS FOR THE PROGRAM

The Florida Healthy Kids Corporation’s Administrative Simplification Ad Hoc Committee that was appointed by Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink met for the first time this week. CFO Sink formed the committee to review the policies and procedures and determine what administrative action may be taken to increase enrollment and retention in the Healthy Kids program.

The Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, which the CFO chairs, is one of four components that make up the larger KidCare program which provides affordable health insurance for children of low-income families.

The topics that the committee addressed ranged from streamlining the transition from one program component to another, to making the program more user-friendly for the families. The majority of the recommendations of the committee are procedural and are intended to make enrollment easier and to keep children in the program. The main goal of CFO Sink and the Ad Hoc Committee is to insure as many children as possible.

The Ad Hoc Committee, which is comprised of elected officials, child advocates and Florida Healthy Kids board members, is tackling issues and developing solutions to improve and streamline this program. The final report will be presented at the Florida Healthy Kids Board Meeting in Hollywood, Florida, next week.

For more information:
Fla. Panel Offers Ways to Keep KidCare - AP

State, Advocates Struggle With KidCare Money Debate - Tampa Tribune


CFO SINK ANNOUNCES THREE FAMILY MEMBERS, BROKER CHARGED IN SOUTH FLORIDA MORTGAGE FRAUD SCHEME

Three members of a family, all working for the same Tamarac financial company, and a real estate broker are facing charges of orchestrating a loan fraud scheme that led them to pocket $100,000 by inflating the sale price of a home on application documents.

Sylvester Cuffy, 58, his son Johnson Cuffy, 30, and his daughter Lillia Cuffy, 35, were arrested last week on charges of grand theft and scheme to defraud and were booked into the Broward County Jail. In addition, Jason Donn, 36, a real estate broker who transacted the mortgage loan closing, is facing the same charges. The arrests are the result of an ongoing investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud. John Swope was the Division’s lead detective.

“Fraud – whether it’s insurance fraud or mortgage fraud – hurts Floridians and our economy by artificially driving up costs that are passed on to all consumers,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the department. “We will protect our citizens by rooting out these costly crimes and holding those involved accountable.”

All three of the Cuffys were employed at the BlueKap Financial Group, located at 7901 W. McNab Rd. in Tamarac, and allegedly submitted a fraudulent loan application to a California-based financial institution. Admissions obtained by the case detective determined that they bought a home for $240,000 on December 30, 2005, but a loan
and title insurance were obtained for the appraised amount of $340,000. Investigators said a straw buyer showed up at the closing and submitted his credit history for the property but never occupied the property. The $100,000 difference in the loan amount and the sale price was divided among the Cuffys, investigators said. The loan on the home has since gone into foreclosure. Additional arrests are anticipated.

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 any other suspected fraud case is asked to call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.


CITIZENS TASK FORCE MEETS BY TELECONFERENCE

The Task Force on Citizens Property Insurance Claims Handling and Resolution convened Wednesday, August 1, 2007, in Tallahassee via conference call beginning at 10:00 A.M.  

The task force, as directed by the Legislature, received an update from Citizens on the status of the 2004 and 2005 hurricane claims. As of July 30, 2007, 978 of the 3,330 claims, open as of June 18, 2007, have been closed. 

Citizens also informed the Task force on progress made in adjuster and employee training in preparation for the 2007 storm season. Other areas of interest contained in the Task Force’s First Report dated July 1, 2007 were discussed and a plan of action established for the further monitoring of these items.   

Consumers are encouraged to follow the ongoing activities of the Task Force by visiting http://www.taskforceoncitizensclaimshandling.org.

The next Task Force meeting will be held on October 5, 2007, in Tallahassee.

The Citizens task force was created by House Bill 1A during the 2007 special session of the Florida Legislature. The task force is composed of: Chairman and Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Bob Milligan; Vice Chairman and Senator Mike Fasano; Representative Julio Robaina; Michael B. Twomey Sr., Attorney; Mike Lancashire, VP, The Main Street America Group; Heather Carruthers, Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe County; and Tim Loftin, VP of Claims at Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.

The Task Force will continue to meet and review Citizens’ action plans and processes to ensure that Citizens’ policyholders receive the highest possible level of service, develop legislation on pertinent issues, monitor the implementation of the Office of Internal Audit and provide interim reports through July 1, 2008.


Consumer Services Helpline (800) 342-2762
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