Enlisting policyholders could tip the scale in enacting anti-fraud bills

If you use eBay, chances are you received an email this week encouraging you to sign on to its campaign to limit taxes on and regulation of selling stuff online. Its message is simple: More taxes = more costs for both buyer and seller.

A link in the email takes you to a sample message  you can send to legislators. You just need fill out a brief form with your personal info, and click “submit.”

We have no doubt that such grassroots tactics work. A similar program created by the Coalition a few years ago found that generating as few as a handful of emails to a legislator can make a difference. Legislators do notice email from constituents. Legislators often vote for constituent wishes, and even co-sponsor bills based on support from voters.

That said, why don’t more insurers enlist the support of their policyholders in their own legislative battles when those initiatives serve the public interest?

For example, homeowners in South Florida face steep increases in homeowners premiums thanks to the state’s allowing assigning of insurance benefits and payment of outrageous attorney fees. The outrage expressed by consumers should be turned into a campaign to pressure legislators for relief from related scams.

Drivers in New York face some of the highest auto rates in the U.S., due in part to the state’s loose no-fault laws. Surely auto policyholders would sign on to a legislative campaign if they thought the outcome could put downward pressure on rates. The list goes on and on.

When questioned, insurers don’t always have good answers. Many are reluctant to enlist policyholders out of fear of offending them. Such campaigns also could backfire by inspiring adversaries (lawyers, doctors, roofers, etc.) to aggressively counter other legislative initiatives important to insurers.

I get all that. But it still seems that selectively enlisting policyholders could tip the scale on anti-fraud bills, and help insurers convey that they’re looking out for their policyholders’ best interests.

About the author: Dennis Jay is executive director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.