Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater says he’s “championing” bills this legislative session in three policy areas: Life insurance, divestment from Iran, and medical billing.
Atwater, first elected in 2010, laid out his priorities in an email sent Wednesday.
Life insurance: Atwater wants to “ensure that insurance companies will utilize current technology and public information that will assist them in determining when a policyholder has passed away and policy benefits need to be paid.”
In fact, he’s supporting SB 966, filed by GOP state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers, which would require insurance companies to do so.
“We’re also working to make sure that if a beneficiary cannot be located, that the benefit money gets turned over to our Bureau of Unclaimed Property where we will work to reunite the benefit with the intended loved one,” Atwater said.
Iran deal: Atwater said “the recently enacted federal Iran deal threatens to undermine Florida’s existing sanctions against investing money in Iran.”
The deal, worked out between Iran and a group of world powers including the United States, will limit Iran’s ability to use nuclear technology in return for lifting financial and other sanctions against the country.
But Florida passed its own law “requiring divestment of public funds from companies that do business with Iran,” said Atwater, a former bank executive. He co-sponsored the measure in 2007 while he was in the Florida Senate.
He’s backing SB 86 by Sen. Joe Negron, which he says will “defend Florida’s choice to remain steadfast in its policy decisions.”
Medical billing: Atwater has had Insurance Consumer Advocate Sha’ron James on the offensive against the practice of “balance billing.”
“To be balanced billed is to receive a request for payment from an out-of-network provider to cover the cost that your insurance company did not pay because the provider was not within their outlined network,” he said. “This situation happens most frequently during times of emergency (and) can result in high-dollar costs to the consumer.”
Atwater said HB 221 by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican, “will hold the consumer harmless in emergency situations, paying no more than what you would pay if the provider had been in your insurance network.”
The medical lobby, however, strongly opposed a similar bill by Trujillo last year, though the Florida Association of Health Plans, which represents every health insurer in the state (other than Florida Blue), supported it.
As CFO, Atwater leads the Department of Financial Services, created after the 1998 Constitutional Revision Commission recommended collapsing several state departments — including Insurance, Treasury, State Fire Marshal and Banking & Finance — into one.
Editor’s Note: This post has been modified to clarify the position of the Florida Association of Health Plans on last year’s balance billing legislation.