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Press Release

Unlicensed Insurance Entities Ordered To Stop Sales
Friday, May 23, 2003
Contact Info:

Bob Lotane (850) 413-2515
Nina Banister (850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE – In an ongoing crackdown on unlicensed insurance entities operating in Florida, the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) today ordered three entities to immediately stop sales and marketing of bogus insurance products.

For more than a year, the Department of Financial Services has been conducting a public education campaign urging consumers to "Verify Before You Buy." During the past two years, 14 unlicensed entities have been shut down and two taken into receivership. More than 50 agents have had administrative charges filed against them for selling the various products.

"Solicitation and sales of unauthorized insurance products represents a continuing and immediate danger to the Florida public," said Kevin McCarty, director of OIR, which is administratively housed within the department. "These entities are destabilizing the Florida insurance market."

The Progressive Health Alliance, with offices in Riverside, CA, and Chesterfield, MO, and its various affiliates have been ordered to stop selling or renewing unauthorized insurance products, including the health plan UNIChoice. The order finds that Progressive wrongfully claimed exemption under the federal Employees Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to bypass Florida's insurance regulations.

Meridian Benefit, Inc., of Wayne, New Jersey, is also ordered to stop marketing its health insurance plan in Florida. The company has failed to pay claims, despite raising rates by as much as 200 percent on some policyholders. Meridian also claimed to have insurance coverage to back up its health plans, which it never obtained.

Bertany Association for Travel and Leisure, based in Plantation, was an association that placed consumers in various unlicensed insurance plans, according to McCarty's order.

Attached is a list of the affiliates, individuals and agents that OIR identified in the orders as being involved in marketing these products. Several of the identified agents have had charges filed against them for their sales activity on behalf of these entities or other entities previously shut down. Licensed agents who sell unlicensed insurance can face disciplinary action, including suspension or revocation of their licenses.

Consumers can check whether an insurance company or agent is authorized in Florida via the Department of Financial Services' web site at www.fldfs.com -- click on "Verify Before You Buy" -- or by calling the consumer helpline at (800) 342-2762.
Contact Info:

Bob Lotane (850) 413-2515
Nina Banister (850) 413-2842