All over South Florida, the word “Obamacare” appears on building signs, vans, fliers, yard signs, business cards and placards twirled by streetside hawkers directing traffic to or advertising storefront insurance agencies trying to get clients signed up for health insurance.
But the insurance agency behind 11 of those storefronts, doing business as the Obamacare Help Center, is drawing the attention of the state Department of Financial Services because its business name includes the word “Obamacare.”
Joel Fink is an owner of Fink Wealth Management LLC, the licensed insurance agency which also owns the name “Obamacare Help Center,” used to attract business to its offices, from Palmetto Bay to West Palm Beach.
And the state has a problem with that one word: Obamacare.
When Fink tried to get an insurance agency license for a corporation called Obamacare Help Center Inc., the state in August rejected the application, saying the “use of this name would mislead the public and possibly violate … statute.”
Florida law says the department may reject a name that may imply it’s a state or federal agency.
Chris Cate, spokesman for chief financial officer Jeff Atwater, said the department objects to “Obamacare” being in the name of a corporation or any other name marketed to the public .
“The issue we have with the name is that it could potentially confuse consumers into thinking this agency is actually part of the federal government,” Cate told Team 6 Investigators in an interview from Tallahassee.
But Fink said there is no confusion.
“We simply explain we’re an independent insurance agency. We’re here to assist them at no cost to them,” Fink said, adding his company makes money from commission or fees paid by the insurance companies that ultimately provide policies to his customers.
And, technically speaking, he said, “Obamacare” is not in his company’s name.
The storefronts display the insurance agency license of Fink Wealth Management, which owns the Obamacare Help Center “fictitious name” – the name registered with the Florida Department of State and used in business permits, signage, fliers and other materials.
Fink said he has abandoned efforts to have the corporation Obamacare Help Center Inc. licensed as an insurance agency. He said he believed the state limited its objection only to that corporate name.
But Cate said if Obamacare Help Center is being used by the agency in its dealings with the public -- whether as a fictitious or corporate name -- the department could take action.
Fink argues he is not alone using Obamacare to market his insurance services.
“All you have to do is drive up and down the street and you see the name Obamacare all over the place,” he said. “It’s the name people know.”
A few blocks away from Fink’s office, Team 6 found “Obamacare Enrollment Center” and “Obamacare Free Enrollment Center” being used on signs advertising other insurance agencies.
But Cate noted the word “Obamacare” is not banned from advertising; it simply may not be in the corporate or fictitious names those insurance agencies use. (A search of public records by Team 6 Investigators found those agencies calling their offices “enrollment centers” are not using Obamacare in their corporate or fictitious names.)
As for Fink’s operation, “the company is not authorized to be operating under the name Obamacare Help Center,” Cate said. “So, if that is the case, we will be going to check out the business.” If violations are found, the agency could be fined.