Whether you’re seeking employment as an agent or actively being solicited by agencies and insurers to sell their services, we caution you to examine the credentials of any entity claiming to be a MEWA or ERISA qualified.
The Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements also known as MEWA for short and entities claiming to be exempt under ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act should elicit a “BEWARE” feeling in your gut. MEWA’s are in fact a valid type of insurer however, they like anyone else must be licensed and registered prior to conducting insurance related business in Florida. Despite recruiters and marketing claims, agents should thoroughly investigate any insurer actively marketing federal plans, federally exempt plans or any other plan claiming to be exempt from state regulation due to having an ERISA designation.
VERIFY BEFORE YOU SELL!
The Department provides real-time access to information, so agents can check the status of an insurer and/or producers to see if they are authorized to conduct business in Florida. Once again, ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. State regulators provide professionally relevant resources and are doing everything possible to make sure licensees understand their responsibility to “VERIFY BEFORE YOU SELL” is a burden they alone shoulder!
The Division of Agent and Agency Services which is under the administrative supervision of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) host an online bulletin which warns agents to “Verify Before You Sell”.
Please do not take this responsibility lightly, good people are financially devastated and ethical licensees who failed to verify an insurer have paid millions of dollars in fines to the state and restitution to customers who relied on their guidance.
Hopefully, CE Courses like this one focused on the Insurance Code and Professional Ethics helps to point you in the direction of state sponsored resources. Please stay engaged, your career depends on it.
Unauthorized entities with the intent to deceive may have chosen to adopt a name similar to another existing authorized entity so, be sure to verify the proper name and spelling of the entity you’re attempting to verify.
If the insurance company is not listed on the web site, or the insurance company is shown with an Authorization Type not listed above, the agent should not place insurance business with that company and contact the Department of Financial Services.
It’s our professional responsibility to report unauthorized entities or questionable business practices and activities. If you suspect an entity isn’t complying with Insurance Marketplace guidelines, call the Office of Financial Regulation at 1.850.487.9687 or email them at askDFS@MyFloridaCFO.com.
Just because an entity is authorized today it does not mean they’ll always be authorized which is why it’s important for you to monitor your appointments from time to time to avoid any potential issues.
If ever the entity you’re attempting to verify isn’t found on the Office of Insurance Regulation website, notify the Department and DO NOT conduct any type of business with this entity.
Division of Agent and Agency Services
“Verify Before You Sell”
On occasion, an unauthorized entity is based outside of Florida and conducts business within state lines. In these instances, the Florida’s Insurance Code grants the Chief Financial Officer the judicial power to impose penalties as a Process Agent.
The authority to act as a *Process Agent means the CFO has the legal power to impose penalties on individuals and entities who live beyond Florida state lines as if they lived in Florida.
Division of Unclaimed Property
Ensuring Fair Life Settlement Practices
The term settlement can have drastic variations to its meaning, all depending on the industry and/or context in which it’s being used. Since this course focuses on regulatory authority over the insurance industry, “settlement” will refer specifically to the insurers responsibility to pay a beneficiary in full, on time.
With marketplace transparency comes the ability for regulators to better notice trends, both welcome and unwelcome. In 2009 an investigation was launched into insurer settlement practices and revealed life insurance companies weren’t doing enough to find and pay beneficiaries.
Often, with life insurance, the policies had been purchased so long ago, the life event the policy owner protected themselves against happens and the ability to claim a benefit goes un-noticed and unclaimed = Unclaimed Property.
Understandably, sometimes people can’t be found however, regulators were quick to point out insurers were utilizing significantly more resources and exerting more effort to identify when annuitants died so they can stop making payments.
The flip side of the coin was the same insurers were making extraordinarily little effort to find beneficiaries once a policy-owner died because, finding them meant the insurer needed to make a payment and “Settle” the contract.
The market investigation led to a joint effort between the former Chief Financial Officer (Jeff Atwater), the Office of Insurance Regulation and the Attorney General Pam Bondi. Together, they helped Florida become the FIRST STATE to adopt regulatory settlement guidelines which required insurers to report and remit *unclaimed into state custody.
Today, insurers must take the appropriate steps to identify/locate beneficiaries or remit the benefit to the state where it’s registered (the Bureau of Unclaimed Property). Once the benefit has been registered with the Bureau of Unclaimed Property people are able to search the database for money which may be owed to them.
The CFO & OIR’s actions triggered a multi-state task force and with the help of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) a multi-state examination process began with public hearings being held in Florida and California to address current industry settlement standards and practices.
*Writing this course sparked my interest so I went to the site and received $110 back from a college electricity security deposit!
How much is waiting for you?
Regulators & Civil Liabilities
The Chief Financial Officer, employees and agents of Florida’s Insurance regulatory entities when acting in accordance with the Florida Insurance Code without malice, are not subject to civil lawsuits for libel, slander, or any other relevant tort.
Let’s say a consumer complaint against an agent triggered an official investigation. The licensee wasn’t penalized however, the Department’s report of the investigation eventually went public. The licensee now claims the backlash of the investigative reports have harmed their professional reputation.
In this example, the licensee wouldn’t have any civil legal recourse against regulators and wouldn’t be allowed to file a lawsuit for loss of income because, reports and bulletins related to “official” activities/duties are in accordance with state insurance laws.
To learn how to access legal benefits such as attorney consultations and document reviews, email me at, Legal@JasonLperez.com.
“Individuals who know their rights, have more than those who don’t.”