TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As lawmakers progress through the final committee week ahead of the 2017 Legislative Session, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is readying to enter his final Session the same way he began his first nearly two decades ago—fighting for Floridians. Focusing on legacy enhancements to the Department of Financial Services and several measures that will protect policyholders against insurance fraud and during times when insurance companies fail, CFO Atwater looks forward to robust conversations with the Florida House and Senate.
“Since day one, I’ve set out to protect Floridians from fraud, waste and abuse, and this legislative session, I’ve put forward a set of priorities that I believe continue that commitment,” said CFO Atwater. “In addition to enhancing current programs and building in consumer protections, we’re looking at ways to address the growing problems associated with the misuse and abuse of the assignment of benefits tool.”
Several of CFO Atwater’s key legislative initiatives include:
Designed to further streamline Florida’s nationally-recognized unclaimed property program, bills filled by Senator Jeff Brandes (SB 536) and Representative Chuck Clemons (HB 681) offer changes to current unclaimed property processes that allow individuals known as surplus trustees to return funds remaining following foreclosure proceedings—for a fee of up to 12 percent. The bill eliminates the Surplus Trustee Program and allows Division of Unclaimed Property staff to process those unclaimed property claims as all others, in-house and without cost to the consumer.
Aimed at improving processes and honing investigative techniques, bills filed by Senator Jeff Brandes (SB 1012) and Representative Holly Raschein (bill number forthcoming) require insurance companies to develop anti-fraud plans that will be submitted to the Department of Financial Services annually; requires in-house fraud-fighting units within insurance companies be trained by the Department’s insurance fraud investigators; and allows the Chief Financial Officer to assign and re-assign dedicated prosecutors as fraud trends change in scope and location.
Insurance Rehabilitation and Liquidation
Bills filed by Senator Kathleen Passidomo (SB 730) and Representative Jake Raburn (HB 837) are designed to streamline Florida’s insurance receivership process. When an insurance company fails financially, the Department of Financial Services steps in to help. The process is called receivership, and the Department works to determine if the company can be saved through rehabilitation or if it must be liquidated. There are many debtors and typically insufficient funds to pay all outstanding debts. This common sense legislation clarifies the deadlines for debtors to submit claims, streamlines payment processes and timelines, and outlines the obligations of the insurance company to cooperate with Department staff.
In addition to these Departmental priorities, CFO Atwater and the Department of Financial Services will play an active role in ongoing legislative discussions involving assignment of benefits (AOB), an insurance tool in which a consumer assigns their rights to the company they’ve hired to make repairs. A sharp rise in the number of claims involving AOBs has led to rising insurance company costs and resulted in several companies starting to raise rates to recoup losses.