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Insurance Agent Could Lose License, Face Order to Pay Unpaid Claims for Selling Unauthorized Insurance

7/10/2001

TALLAHASSEE – A West Palm Beach insurance agent is facing loss of his license to do business in Florida and could be required to pay some $300,000 in unpaid health care claims for allegedly leading at least five companies to buy unauthorized insurance, Florida Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher announced today.


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Steven Jacob Olsen, 40, is vice president of Acordia Southeast, Inc., one of the nation's largest insurance brokerages. Olsen is the first agent to face administrative charges stemming from an ongoing Department of Insurance investigation into sales of unauthorized group health insurance to dozens of employers throughout the state by Well America Group Inc.

"A licensed insurance agent should know the product he is selling and whether or not the company issuing it is properly licensed," Gallagher said. "Thousands of Well America policyholders have been left with unpaid claims, and we will pursue those who allowed this to happen."

The South Florida-based Well America was never licensed to transact insurance business in Florida or any other state and went out of business last August, leaving more than $3.7 million in unpaid claims. Gallagher filed felony charges against Well America's principals earlier this year.

Olsen worked in Acordia's West Palm Beach office. A 14-page administrative complaint delivered today to Olsen, charges him with selling the unauthorized Well America policies to at least five South Florida employers – Florida Transportation Services, Inc., Southern Labor Services, Inc., Texas Terminals Limited Partnership, the Anspach Companies and Ralph Buick Inc. Olsen sold the policies in late 1999 and early 2000.

In explaining the Well America policy to potential clients, the administrative complaint alleges that Olsen represented that, in return for the payment of a monthly premium, they would have no out-of-pocket expense and that the quoted rates were guaranteed for two years.

Undertaking to indemnify another against the risk of financial loss, such as health care expenses, is the essence of insurance and requires a license from the department. Likewise, guaranteeing the amount of the premium for two years shifted risk from the employer to Well America Group to ensure that sufficient funds were available to pay claims.

The state guaranty fund that exists to pay the claims of licensed insurers that encounter financial problems does not cover claims of unlicensed entities.

Under Florida law, anyone who solicits, negotiates or sells an insurance contract for an unauthorized insurer, when they know or should know that the insurer is not licensed, is responsible for unpaid claims. The license status of companies can be determined by calling the department's Consumer Helpline at 1-800-342-2762 or by visiting the department's website at www.fldfs.com.

Olsen has 21 days to respond, and has the right to request a hearing at the Division of Administrative Hearings.

The investigation was conducted by the department's Bureau of Agent and Agency Services and the Division of Insurance Fraud, Unauthorized Entities Section. Cualquier persona con información acerca de este caso u otra posible confabulación de fraude debe llamar a la Línea de Ayuda al Consumidor del departamento de Fraude al 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 is offered for information leading to arrest and conviction of individuals for insurance fraud.