Volume 4, Number 34, August 24, 2007
Along with students from pre-kindergarten to college,
my daughter headed off to school this week. As we prepare for her first
semester in college, I was reminded of the many financial issues faced by
college students and how, as Florida's Chief Financial Officer, I would like
to help educate our youth about financial responsibility.
Our consumer specialists at the Department of Financial Services are ready to answer your financial questions. Our statewide toll-free helpline, 1-800-342-2762, is available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Visit MyFloridaMoney.com for more tips on financial responsibility.
CFO SINK ISSUES $6.5 MILLION CHECK TO
Published in the St. Petersburg Times, Palm Beach Post, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Florida Times Union, Miami Herald, Tallahassee Democrat, Naples Daily News, Ft. Myers News-Press, Treasure Coast Palm, Pensacola News Journal
For 36 years, Floridians have taken for granted that if they suffer from injuries in a car accident, the first $10,000 in medical and related benefits are automatically covered by the No-Fault law, commonly referred to by the medical benefits portion called PIP, Personal Injury Protection. In six weeks when the law is set to expire Florida will enter a new world.
I support the intent of the No-Fault law, which is to ensure that Floridians receive medical treatment for injuries they suffer in an auto accident without delay and without the need to file a lawsuit to recover costs relating to these medical benefits. However, the law, and especially the PIP provision of the law, has major flaws. A culture of fraud and abuse has grown around PIP, one that my fraud investigators fight every day. Medical costs are not managed well in the PIP system. Claims for PIP medical benefits should not be used to support unnecessary and costly lawsuits.
But the idea behind the law – the protection of Floridians and their assets – is the centerpiece of my role as your Chief Financial Officer. Although I want to make the No-Fault law and PIP work, there is no indication that the legislature will address this issue in the upcoming special legislative session. Therefore, with the impending sunset of the law, I have been working to increase Floridians’ awareness about life after No-Fault.
Several important aspects of auto insurance will be different when the law goes away. I have established an informative Web site as an educational resource at www.myfloridacfo.com/nofault/. On the Web page, you will find answers to questions about how drivers can protect themselves in a fault-based system and more.
Much has been reported about changes in auto insurance rates when No-Fault expires. However I encourage you to look beyond the cost savings and consider what you and your family need. In particular, you may decide to buy medical payments coverage or increase your existing Uninsured Motorist or other coverage to better protect you, which will add some cost to your auto insurance premium, even if PIP costs are reduced.
I understand that the Legislature has been studying this issue for years, and well-intentioned members in the Senate and House of Representatives have proposed various No-Fault reform ideas. The issue is complicated and the parties – hospitals, doctors, attorneys and insurance companies - rarely agree on reforms that Floridians need. The reality is that all interested parties will have to change the way they do business in order to fix PIP.
Whether or not we reform No-Fault or PIP, I believe the following components should be included in any system of medical benefits for Floridians:
· Florida should require mandatory medical benefits insurance for owners and operators of motor vehicles regardless of who is at fault in the accident. This would particularly help the 20% of Floridians that currently lack health insurance.
· Medical benefits insurance should include mandatory cost containment provisions. For example, fee schedules, which set reimbursement rates for services and are common in Medicare, Medicaid and workers’ compensation, and have proven successful for containing costs.
· Florida must continue to combat all forms of insurance fraud and any insurance program must include aggressive anti-fraud measures. Critics of the No-Fault system point to fraud as a reason to allow it to sunset. Experience in other states has shown us that fraud happens in any system and we must remain vigilant against it.
One thing is clear - before No-Fault sunsets on October 1, all Floridians should examine their automobile insurance policies to ensure they have adequate coverage to protect themselves and their assets. I encourage Floridians to contact their insurance agents or companies in the next six weeks to discuss what changes will best suit their needs.
I call on the Governor and Legislature to expand the call for the upcoming Special Legislative Session to include No-Fault and urge the parties to work together with the best interests of Floridians in mind. PIP can work. Compromise is needed. A reformed No-Fault law or a suitable replacement will benefit Floridians directly by protecting families. Who can argue with that?
DON'T LET YOUR HURRICANE GUARD DOWN
The images of the damage that Hurricane Dean wrought in the Caribbean and in Mexico serves as a strong reminder that Floridians must remain on guard.
Make sure your family has adequate homeowners insurance, including flood insurance that takes 30 days to activate.
Then focus on stocking up on storm supplies such as bottled water, canned food, batteries, tarps and other necessary items, and make or review your hurricane escape plan for every member of the family, including pets.
Finally, make sure you have copies of important documents, including insurance policies and financial records, in a waterproof container that you can take with you if you have to evacuate.
For more information to help you prepare, visit Hurricane Season 2007 on the department’s Web pages.
To learn ways you can harden your home against hurricanes, please visit My Safe Florida Home.
SUMMER 2007 – SPECIAL EDITION: 51 WAYS TO SAVE HUNDREDS ON LOANS AND
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation wants to help you reap the benefits of loans and credit cards at the lowest possible costs. That's why this special edition of our quarterly FDIC Consumer News is a collection of 51 simple, practical tips and other guidance that can help you save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
In this special edition you'll find ideas and information on topics such as how to: get the best possible interest rates on loans and credit cards; avoid paying unnecessary fees; find "emergency" loans at affordable prices; and steer clear of credit-related rip-offs and scams.
The FDIC wants not only help keep your money safe in insured bank accounts, but also wants to help you keep more of your money.
Consumer eViews MyFloridaCFO.com/PressOffice/Newsletter/