The number is (877) 693-5236. Your tax dollars already pay for it. Maybe you never heard of it, but more than 141,000 Floridians called it in first six months of 2017, saving a collective $16.6 million.
It’s the Florida Insurance Consumer Helpline, run by the state agency that oversees insurance regulation. It can help people get money in unpaid and underpaid insurance claims and refunds, for example.
Does every call result in a refund? No. But it’s worth a try. For one thing, it helps create a record of complaints if a company is engaged in a practice that leaves a lot of consumers feeling mistreated. That alerts regulators and gives the public a way to check who might be stirring up problems.
For another, insurance is a confusing, complicated business and this is a toll-free resource you’ve already bought and paid for, whether you know it or not. Maybe you just have a question about health, home, car or other insurance and they can help answer it.
Usefully, the Florida Department of Financial Services under new Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis provided specific examples of cases where the department was able to help:
- A Leon County consumer contacted the Helpline after insurance claims related to her son’s month-long stay in intensive care were denied. The company denied the claims on the basis of a pre-existing condition, yet the consumer felt the policy did cover her son’s pre-existing illness. Helpline experts contacted the company on her behalf and learned that the insurance agent who sold the policy may have misrepresented what the policy would cover. Helpline staff questioned the pre-existing condition determination, the claims were reprocessed, and a maximum benefit payout of $100,000 was made to the consumer.
- After filing a homeowner’s claim and receiving payment following Hurricane Matthew, a Pinellas County consumer contacted the Helpline when her insurance company denied coverage for additional damage that had been discovered. Even after sending in additional documentation, she was unable to resolve the issue. Upon calling the company, Helpline experts were told that a simple processing error was to blame, not a denial. The company promptly processed the claim, paying out an additional $4,700 to the consumer.
- A Brevard County consumer contacted the Helpline when medical claims payments related to treatment for her son never arrived. The company explained to Helpline experts that the payments had been processed but the company could not explain why they had not been received. A widespread system error was discovered and the company realized that payment checks for 53 consumers had never been mailed. In total, more than $24,000 in unmailed payments went out to the 53 consumers, including the original caller.
“The claims-filing process can be a stressful affair, especially during times of serious illness or after a disastrous event,” Patronis said. “I applaud the efforts of our experts who work tirelessly to provide Floridians with the tools and resources they need to easily navigate through their insurance-related issues.”