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

Volume 4, Number 52, December 28, 2007

8 RESOLUTIONS FOR 2008

As we begin the new year, many of us will be making resolutions aimed at improving our lives. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and the employees of the Department of Financial Services work every day to protect Floridians' money and assets and offer the following proposed resolutions along with links to kick off a safe and prosperous new year.

  1. Get PIP – Call your auto insurance agent and make sure you will be in compliance with state law on January 1, 2008, when all Florida drivers will once again be required to carry $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage as well as $10,000 in property damage liability coverage. For more information, click on http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/NoFault/.

  2. Harden your home – Get a free windstorm inspection or just learn more about wind mitigation techniques for your home or business. Florida was lucky and had no hurricanes during the past two years, but the state is still recovering from eight back-to-back hurricanes in 2004 and 2005. Learn more about ways to mitigate, or harden, your home or business against hurricanes and how to potentially save hundreds of dollars on windstorm premiums. For information, go to http://www.mysafefloridahome.com/.

  3. Fight to keep your home – If you and your family are at risk of losing your home to foreclosure because you can’t keep up with mortgage payments, be proactive and seek help. For information, log on to http://www.flofr.com/Director/ForeclosureHelp.htm.

  4. Practice fire safety – Maintain working smoke alarms by testing and changing your batteries often - and regularly practice a fire escape plan. More than half of all fire-related deaths could be prevented by these  activities. For more information, log on to http://www.myfloridacfo.com/PressOffice/Home&holidaysafetyvideo.htm.

  5. Keep more green - Check to see if the state is holding cash or property for you or someone you know. The department’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property currently is holding more than $7 billion worth of unclaimed cash and property, and statistics show that one in four Floridians has unclaimed property or knows someone who does. Log on to http://www.fltreasurehunt.org/.

  6. Think green – Do your part to decrease your electric bills, your carbon footprint and help protect our state from the impact of climate change. Learn more about what you can do by logging on to http://www.floridaclimatechange.com/.

  7. Verify before you buy – Get in the habit of checking before you buy or sign a contract to make sure any insurance or financial agents, brokers or companies you are considering doing business with are licensed in Florida to conduct the business they are offering.  To verify licensure, log on to http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/consumers/verify_before_you_buy/  or call 1-877-MyFLCFO.

  8. Subscribe to eViews – Make sure your friends and co-workers have access to this important information by encouraging them to subscribe to CFO Alex Sink’s weekly electronic newsletter by logging on to http://www.myfloridacfo.com/PressOffice/Newsletter/.

Wishing you and your family a safe and wonderful new year.


FLORIDA TO BALI – SO FAR, OH SO CLOSE
by Kathy Baughman McLeod

The man sitting next to me was wearing a full length white robe, white turban, white ornate scarf and was barefoot -- and talking on a cell phone.

I was sitting in the audience of the opening session of the Conference of the Parties, the 13th meeting of the nations that negotiated the Kyoto Protocol.
With 12,000 other residents of the planet, I journeyed to the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change in steamy Bali, Indonesia last week to represent my boss, Alex Sink, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.

I was invited to attend and speak at the conference by a London-based non-profit organization call the Climate Group. They have offices all over the world and in Florida in the Tampa Bay area. Many non-governmental organizations like the Climate Group are given “observer status” to the conference and can host their own delegates, like me.

I was a delegation of one representing Florida, while California (30 strong), New York and New Jersey all had representatives there. Mayor Bloomberg of New York City and the Deputy Mayor of London came and shared strategies. Also attending were Canadian Provinces, Australian states, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Westphalia, Germany and the Basque region of Spain. All of these regions and states represented have climate initiatives that focus on the reduction of greenhouse gases. With such a focus on the US federal government’s inaction, I was proud to represent Florida and to stand with other states to show our commitment.

I came in part to tout Florida’s progress and Governor Crist’s great strides in the battle against climate change in a few short months – the energy and climate action team, our comprehensive GHG reduction strategy through the Governor’s executive orders, and more. I was also there to share CFO Sink’s initiatives on the financial aspects of climate change from an investment and risk management perspective.

The conference started off with a bang. After one week in office, Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, signed the Kyoto Protocol. Voters ousted the prior government for one with a serious commitment to address climate change. It was a dramatic moment when Rudd handed Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the UN, the signed document in front of a packed auditorium.

With Australia’s actions, the United States was further isolated. The leader of Papua New Guinea’s Delegation said in a tense moment as the US negotiators declined to agree, “We ask for your leadership, we seek your leadership, but if for some reason you're not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please, get out of the way.” The crowd of delegates exploded with applause.

The US, China and India got much attention throughout the proceedings. One point of contention is that developing countries are reluctant to agree to cut emissions when large economies of the world, namely the US, are unwilling to do the same and already have a much better advantage in the world.

An overarching theme was that large, wealthy nations that continue to emit high levels of CO2 do so at the immediate peril of small island countries like Palau, the Maldives, Micronesia, Guam, and many others. Ravedni Puchauri, the lead scientist of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), using maps and simple charts, showed the results of the panel’s third report. It was clear that we are out of time.

At the conclusion of the meeting – that went into overtime -- the high-stakes negotiations reached consensus on reducing emissions (without specific targets) for the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, and two other key issues; 1) an “adaptation fund” that helps developing nations make changes to the way they do business to better survive the inevitable and now-present impacts of climate change like drought; and 2) nations agreed to the transfer of technology from developed nations to developing nations to speed up the process of transitioning to a low-carbon economy and to reduce deforestation, one of the highest sources of CO2 emissions. With a new coal plant becoming operational every week in China, transferring technology on efficient and cost-effective clean energy is essential.

One individual made a large and lasting impression on me in Bali. His look, with tan skin, a well-made cool, dress shirt and a chain of shells around his neck, was that of a confident man.

I asked if he was representing his country there. “I am the President of Palau”, he said off-handedly. He explained that his Pacific island nation’s coral reefs are dying and that the biggest threat to Palauans’ future is climate change.

He described his vulnerable islands and reefs, with increasing damage from extreme weather and its dependence on tourism.

In a moving speech to the conference, President Remengesau beseeched the US and other slow-to-the-table nations to consider their own futures. “If you cannot do this for me or for yourself, do this for our children. The immediate future of my country is in your hands.”

Coastal, weather-weary, and tourism-dependent? Isn’t that Florida?

Reducing our carbon emissions in Florida is not just for Palau’s children, it is truly for our own.

Kathy Baughman McLeod is Deputy Chief of Staff to Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. She directs the CFO’s policy and external affairs, and is the lead staff on the CFO’s climate initiatives. She lives in Tallahassee and can be reached at kathy.baughmanmcleod@MyFloridaCFO.com.


PIP IS BACK AND IS REQUIRED BY LAW FOR DRIVERS ON JANUARY 1, 2008

Since the Florida Legislature passed a bill to reform Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, citizens should know that Florida law will once again require drivers to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance effective January 1, 2008.

As part of the legislation restoring PIP coverage, insurance companies must notify policyholders how  the mandatory restoration of PIP/no-fault will impact them. The notice must clearly inform the policyholder on these points:

  • Beginning on January 1, 2008, Florida law requires drivers to maintain PIP insurance coverage which pays covered medical expenses for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash by the policyholder, passengers, and relatives residing in the policyholder's household.
  • If a policyholder fails to maintain PIP coverage, the State of Florida may suspend the policyholder's driver license and vehicle registration.

That means all Florida motor vehicle owners and operators will be required to carry PIP in the amount of $10,000 for losses sustained by the insured or covered person as a result of bodily injury, sickness, disease, or death arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle.

By law, PIP coverage pays the following benefits, up to the $10,000 limit:

  • 80 percent of reasonable and medically necessary medical expenses;  
  • 60 percent of disability benefits for lost gross income and earning capacity;
  • 100 percent of replacement services (such as child care, housekeeping, etc.); and
  • $5,000 per individual death benefit.

If you need assistance, please contact your insurance agent or call our Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MyFLCFO.


DO YOU NEED LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE?

With healthcare costs rising and longer life expectancies, funding long-term care needs is an increasing concern for millions of people. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about 9 million Americans, now 65 or older, will require long-term care. HHS expects that number to rise by 25 percent – to 12 million – by 2020. The average annual cost of nursing home care is $74,806, according to Genworth Financial’s 2007 Cost of Care Survey, but that figure can fluctuate depending on the level of care required, and the state in which the care is provided.

To help consumers make more informed decisions about long-term care insurance coverage, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers tips and considerations through its public education program, Insure U – Get Smart About Insurance, at www.insureUonline.org. Additionally, answers to many common questions about long-term care insurance can be found in the NAIC’s free “Shopper’s Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance,” which can be ordered at https://externalapps.naic.org/insprod/Consumer_info.jsp. The Florida Department of Financial Services offers a guide entitled Long-Term Care and Other Options for Seniors.

Consumers who would like to protect their assets, minimize dependence on family members and control how they receive nursing or home care, should carefully consider long-term care insurance. It’s a highly individualized decision that requires people to look closely at multiple factors including their family health history, dependent relationships and personal financial situation.

Understanding the Basics of Long-Term Care Insurance

When people are unable to perform activities of daily living – such as eating, dressing and bathing – long-term care insurance can pay for the services of nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and in-home caregivers. Importantly, long-term care insurance covers expenses for those diagnosed with a chronic illness such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Standard health insurance policies and Medicare usually do not pay for long-term care expenses associated with these illnesses. Medicaid provides limited long-term care benefits – and only after a person’s assets have been depleted.

People are living longer, but they often don’t have the ability to take care of themselves as they reach the older ages. Because these costs can become prohibitively high, interest in long-term care insurance is increasing. We encourage consumers to visit our Web site and take the long-term care quiz to find out more about their options. The quiz is located on the right-hand side of the home page of www.insureUonline.org.

A major consideration for purchasing long-term care insurance, according to the NAIC, is whether individuals have assets they want to protect, as the substantial annual cost of long-term care can quickly deplete even a sizeable nest egg. On the other hand, if one’s retirement savings are minimal or non-existent, he or she would likely qualify for Medicaid in a very short period of time, significantly diminishing the need for long-term care insurance coverage. According to the NAIC, consumers should not purchase long-term care insurance if they are currently on Medicaid or their only source of income is Social Security.


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