Consumer eViews

Volume 4, Number 47, November 23, 2007

Fellow Floridian:

As we gather with friends and family this Thanksgiving holiday, we have much to be thankful for this year. This traditional day in America is an opportunity for us give thanks for all of the benefits of this land of plenty.

President John F. Kennedy once said: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  Truly, the joys of living in our beautiful state and in a free and generous nation are endless, and so are the opportunities to express them.

Let us give thanks to those who have served and who currently serve in our armed forces so that we may enjoy our many blessings and opportunities. Let us also take time to thank those around us for all that they do – whether it is teaching our children, providing medical care to the sick, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or driving goods from coast to coast. It takes all of us to make and keep our great country strong.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday.


Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who also serves as the chair of the Healthy Kids Board, announced the Board has appointed Richard Robleto as the new Executive Director of the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation.

“This is an exciting day for the Healthy Kids program,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “Under Rich’s proven leadership, I am confident that more of Florida’s children will receive the affordable health care they deserve.”

Before his appointment, Robleto served as Executive Vice President of the Florida Association of Health Plans (FAHP). Robleto also worked for the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) and the former Department of Insurance for eight years, where he served as the Deputy Commissioner of Life and Health Insurance and the Bureau Chief of Life and Health Product Review. While at the OIR, Robleto received national recognition as outstanding regulator of the year. Before moving to Florida, Robleto spent 26 years at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Delaware, serving as Vice President of the Corporation and General Manager of its Life Insurance subsidiary and Vice President.

“I have always admired the Healthy Kids program, and I consider it a tremendous honor to have been selected as Executive Director,” said Robleto. “I look forward to working with CFO Sink and the Healthy Kids Board to expand our efforts to help working families purchase affordable health insurance for their children.”

The Florida Healthy Kids program is one of four components of the larger Florida KidCare program, the state’s health insurance program for uninsured children. The Florida KidCare program serves nearly 1.4 million children, of which 1.1 million are Medicaid customers and more than 255,000 are enrolled in MediKids, Children’s Medical Services or Healthy Kids. Florida Healthy Kids allows working families the opportunity to purchase low-cost health insurance for their children ages 5 through 19. To be eligible for discounted premiums, families must earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $40,000 for a family of four. Children enrolled in these programs receive regular doctor visits, dental check-ups and immunizations at little to no cost.

Recently, CFO Sink announced enrollment numbers from the ongoing Florida KidCare community campaign to reach families with uninsured children. During the month of October, 17,497 more children were enrolled in Florida KidCare, following the record-setting receipt of more than 38,000 applications in August and more than 39,000 applications in September.

Sink ordered an analysis of subprime risk in Treasury funds earlier this month

Two weeks after calling for an in-depth analysis on how the collapse of the subprime mortgage market might affect Florida’s Treasury investments, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink reported that the Treasury maintains a diversified bond portfolio with minimal subprime exposure.

CFO Sink called for the Treasury’s investment analysis after meeting with senior executives from Wall Street investment firms and witnessing rating agencies down-grading several mortgage-backed securities previously rated as high as AAA.

“As the manager of the state Treasury with $24 billion in investments, I want to ensure we are safeguarding the taxpayers’ money,” said CFO Sink, who oversees of the Department of Financial Services. “During the past two weeks, we’ve examined every subprime-related investment and concluded the risk to the state’s Treasury investments is minimal.”

Subprime holdings represent approximately 0.7 percent of the Treasury’s total $24 billion investment portfolio. The securities held are not expected to default, as most of the subprime holdings maintained by the state Treasury are seasoned holdings that have been performing for years. Additionally, these holdings are senior in priority and are believed to contain sufficient credit support to cover the state’s investment.

Investment managers who manage state funds are required to abide by strict financial guidelines, such as investing in funds with specific credit ratings and other risk criteria. In some cases, high-risk mortgage-backed securities have been repackaged, given a high investment grade rating, and sold to investors. Subsequently, Moody’s Investors Service and other rating firms have downgraded the ratings of several mortgage-backed securities, leading CFO Sink to call for higher scrutiny of the Treasury’s investments.

“It’s clear that we can no longer solely rely on an investment’s credit rating when making management decisions,” said CFO Sink. “In light of the current market conditions, we are tightening our risk tolerances to better safeguard the people’s money.”

State Treasury managers also reviewed a number of other investments that could potentially be affected by the subprime mortgage market collapse, including collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), Alt-A mortgages and structured investment vehicle (SIV) obligations. Total exposure in these investments is minimal, and they are senior class investments not expected to default.

CFO Sink had also asked the State Board of Administration to review its $187 billion in investments and to present the findings to the Florida Cabinet’s meeting on November 14, 2007. The State Board of Administration manages the state’s $138 billion pension fund and other investment pools, and reports to the Governor and Cabinet. SBA Director Coleman Stipanovich Wednesday indicated the state’s pension fund was properly diversified and not at risk.

CFO Sink has also encouraged other state entities – including the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, Florida Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, and the Florida Prepaid College Fund – to review their asset allocations, investment decisions and risk levels.


Public television stations across the state will air Beth Switzer's Florida Face to Face interview with guest CFO Alex Sink about a variety of issues of interest to Floridians. Please check the following schedule for the station and time in your area.

State agency-backed campaign boosts KidCare enrollment
during the month of October

The ongoing community campaign to reach families with uninsured children is working to boost enrollment in Florida KidCare. During the month of October, 17,497 more children were covered. Florida KidCare currently serves nearly 1.4 million children, of which 1.1 million are Medicaid customers and more than 255,000 are enrolled in MediKids, Children’s Medical Services or Healthy Kids. Children enrolled in these programs receive regular doctor visits, dental check-ups and immunizations at little to no cost.

“The significant increase in enrollment shows that a sustained statewide outreach effort is important and necessary to get more kids insured through KidCare,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who chairs the Healthy Kids board. “This is a vital program, and we are going to continue our grassroots approach to promoting KidCare and helping families enroll in the program. Our goal is to get as many uninsured children into the program as possible.”

Since July, staff and leaders from Florida KidCare, the Florida Department of Health, the Department of Children and Families, the Agency for Workforce Innovation and the Agency for Healthcare Administration have distributed millions of KidCare applications at schools and community events to reach more families with uninsured children.

Local community groups and businesses with access to families are also participating. KidCare distributed more than $1 million in matching grants to organizations that demonstrated creative outreach strategies to help enroll eligible families. In addition, large retailers such as Albertson’s, Walgreens, and Sweetbay are displaying KidCare information in their stores statewide. The health insurance plans that provide medical coverage to children enrolled in KidCare also contribute. The Florida Association of Health Plans (FAHP) recently funded a statewide radio advertising campaign to promote KidCare through urban and Hispanic radio stations.

The campaign is producing application volume at historic levels. More than 38,000 applications were received in August, which was an increase over the same time period last year. A record number 39,833 applications were received in September, which is a 30 percent increase compared to last year.

“The proof is in the numbers. Application volume keeps going up, up, up and more kids are getting covered,” said KidCare consultant Rose Naff. “In October we broke the record for the third consecutive month, receiving over 40,000 applications.”

“Flu season is around the corner, and this is a great time for families to enroll their children in KidCare so they can have peace of mind,” said Florida Surgeon General Ana Viamonte Ros. “Having easy access to quality doctors through the KidCare program can help parents avoid costly trips to the emergency room when their kids are sick.”

For more information Florida KidCare, visit to apply on-line or call 1-888-540-5437 to receive an application by mail.


Twenty-two retired firefighters and EMS workers from The Villages, Florida came to the Fire College by bus on November 15, 2007, to tour the campus and look at some of the new technology. The visit started in the auditorium for a welcome by Chief Dave Casey. His slide presentation of “do you remember when” was quite a hit.

Everyone got a good laugh when Chief Casey asked if they remembered following their officer into a fire and being able to see where he was by his lit cigarette. Of course in the standards of today, inside the fire the officer would be wearing full gear including self-contained breathing apparatus and fewer firefighters are smoking these days. They took a tour of the outside facilities including the Haz Mat field, Urban Search and Rescue, and vehicle extrication just before a luncheon in the fire station.

Bill “Andy” Andrews and Harry Schaffer, both retired from the Washington D.C. fire department in 1985, said they were quite impressed with the new equipment technology.

Plasma cutters, live fire demonstrations using the new computer controlled and gas fired props, thermal imaging, and the snake eye cameras/monitors were demonstrated by staff.  Glenn Bruce, retired in 2000 from the Troy Township Fire Department in Ohio, whose son has followed in his footsteps and is a training officer in Mansfield, Ohio, said he was most impressed with the changes in search and rescue and will discuss them with his son.

Then the “old met the new”. The latest recruit class met with the retirees and had the opportunity to ask questions of each other. The first question from a student was what do you miss the most and the response seemed to be the same from many: “the fire service family.” When the students wanted to know what the retirees thought of the new generation of firefighters, Fred Stark, retired Bureau Chief from the Florida State Fire College, responded, “There really is no difference between now and the past…..well, maybe a few gray hairs for some of us. Firefighters set themselves apart from others by their dedication.”  The biggest laugh came when a student asked what the former fire chiefs in the room looked for in a new recruit and one yelled from the back, “they need to be a good cook.”

There were many accolades going both directions as some of the “rookies” got to shake hands with the “retirees.” The visit was sponsored by The Daily Sun newspaper, which is part of the Villages Media Group that serves The Villages, Florida. After the visit a tired but happy group boarded their bus for the trip home. According to Chief Dave Casey of the Florida State Fire College, “It was a great afternoon of interaction for the visitors, the fire college staff, and the student firefighters. We all came away with a tremendous respect for each other."


Have you been solicited by email asking you to give your money to a charity that sounds like it will help a noble cause? You should verify before you buy into the idea that you are helping some good cause with your donation. Here's why - The latest fraud was reported by the IRS, warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for a new e-mail scam that appears to be a solicitation from the IRS and the U.S. government for charitable contributions to victims of the recent Southern California wildfires.

The scam e-mail urges recipients to click on a link, which then opens what appears to be the IRS Web site but which is, in fact, a fake. An item on the phony Web site urges donations and includes a link that opens a donation form which requests your personal and financial information. Be aware that the IRS does not send e-mails soliciting charitable donations! As a rule, the IRS does not send unsolicited e-mails or ask for personal and financial information via e-mail. The IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

The bogus e-mails appear to be a “phishing” scheme, in which you are tricked into providing personal and financial information that can be used to gain access to and steal your assets. The IRS also believes that clicking on the link downloads MALWARE, or malicious software, onto your computer. The MALWARE will steal passwords and other account information it finds on the victim's computer system and send them to the scamster. So how can you protect yourself from this MALWARE threat? Use a good antivirus software program on your computer, and set it to automatically receive frequent updates for protection against the latest scams. Never click and open email from unknown senders.

If you got this scam e-mail and clicked on any of the links, you should have your computer checked for malicious software and monitor your financial accounts for suspicious activity, taking measures to prevent access. Report any unauthorized activity to law enforcement and to the three major credit bureaus.

In addition, you can help the IRS shut down this scheme! Here's how: if you got the phony email, call a toll-free hotline at 1-800-366-4484 or forward it to, to have the bogus sites taken offline as soon as they are reported. Since the establishment of the mail box last year, the IRS has received more than 30,000 e-mails reporting almost 600 separate phishing incidents! To date, almost 900 host sites have been identified in at least 55 different countries, as well as in the United States.


It is getting to be that time of year again. This is the season of giving, and many people are considering making charitable donations. Nobody wants to waste their money by donating to a scam. Here are some tips to remember.

Beware of “look-alike charities” which may have a very similar name as a large established charity. Be careful so you are not fooled into thinking that you have donated to a legitimate charity instead of to a bogus charity that is not legitimate.

There is a free resource in Florida that provides excellent information designed to help guide you in making your decision. If you wish to make a contribution, be a smart financial consumer by getting the facts. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DOAC) provides detailed financial information about the charitable organization’s use of donated money. Every organization that is soliciting for donations in Florida must be listed in the State of Florida’s Gift Giver’s Guide. If the charity is not listed in the guide, don’t donate!

The guide is very easy to use and reflects what percentage of donations actually go to the cause. You want to see that the percentage of the donations that cover administration and fund-raising costs is very low in comparison. You should carefully consider whether it is your desire to donate to an organization that uses a very high percentage of the money towards paying for its own existence, rather than contributing to the cause itself.

You can check it out by searching the FL Gift Givers Guide using full or partial name of the charity. It is available for free by calling DOAC at 1-800-435-7352, for a hard copy to be mailed to you; or it is also located online at

Consumer Services Helpline (800) 342-2762
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