Voters will cast their Election Day ballots in a few days. We’re electing more than a President and members of Congress. A good number of state governors, insurance commissioners and legislators are on ballots as well.
They’ll barely be settled in when statehouses start opening for 2017. Quite a few fraud bills could be on tap — a lot of early chatter is making the rounds in several states.
Many policymakers know little or nothing about insurance fraud or how this crime damages their constituents. We’ll have many opportunities to convince state legislators to vote “yes” for bills that support fraud-fighting efforts.
I’ll share a secret that can open doors and increase your own impact.
But first, here’s what we know so far about 2017 — and more bills are sure to be introduced throughout the year. …
Restrict assignment of benefits. Insurers are concerned about contractors in Florida. Scofflaws inflate repair bills, and typically sue the insurer if the claims are denied or not paid quickly. All this happens behind the unsuspecting claimant’s back.
The vast damage damage caused by Hurricane Matthew will bring out legions of swindling contractors. That has vaulted the issue higher on insurer legislative agendas in the state.
Crashing staged crashes. Penalties for staging crashes in Nevada are pretty weak. The state AG is considering drafting a bill stiffening jail terms and fines. The Las Vegas area, especially, is a hotbed of crash rings and inflated whiplash claims.
Some rings target big-rig trucks. Current law does little to deter hardened fraud rings, many fraud fighters in the state believe. The AG is listening and may seek legislation to add more teeth in 2017, Coalition sources say.
Widening statute of limitations. Firming up the statute of limitations will be high on the Colorado AG’s 2017 agenda: Start the clock when the scam is discovered. The clock now runs for five years after the fraud occurred. The enhancement would be more realistic: The fraud crime often is detected well after it occurs. Also being looked at is adding insurance fraud as a crime to be covered under the state’s RICO, racketeering laws. Both would help the anti-fraud effort in the state.
More hotspot states. Look for action in Kentucky (expand immunity/information-sharing; limit access to crash reports; contractor cons). The Coalition is working with Kentucky fraud fighters to help strengthen the state’s anti-fraud laws … and New York (contractor scams and crash rings).
This is where fraud fighters come in. You need to start planning for 2017 right now. This means identifying current bills and the committees that will move the measures.
It also means thinking about introducing bills with friendly committee members or other legislators as the sponsors.
I’ve seen fraud bills start moving within days after the statehouse doors swung open. All the more reason to start thinking now.
Now about that secret — your impact in legislation is all about personal relationships. It’s the same principle you use so often to build close ties and contacts when pursuing fraud cases.
One fraud fighter I know convinced a state legislator to co-sponsor a bill simply by having a friendly chat about a fraud problem in his state. So few legislators know much about insurance crime in any real detail. You can be the trusted eyes and ears of legislators on scams that must be stopped to protect honest consumers.
You’ll have a strong leg up if lawmakers already know and trust your expertise as a frontliner. You can help educate them about an issue … weigh in about bill wording that makes sure the measures help shut down targeted scams.
You’ll find a great deal of support from the Coalition. I can personally assist in many ways — bill wording, overall bill strategy, effective talking points, helping set up meetings with key movers. You can easily reach me at Howard@InsuranceFraud.org with any ideas or questions.
More resources are tucked away on the Coalition’s website.
Check out suggested state legislation for laws other states enacted on your hot-button fraud issues. Auto rate evasion and tighter limits on using check-cashing stores in workers-comp scams are new additions. Model bills also take on crash-ring recruiters, immunity and other concerns.
Get involved through groups such as IASIU and NSPII. Check with me about what’s happeing in your state, and how you can get involved.
Grassroots efforts work. You’re the roots of grassroots. Once the November balloting is done, we’ll soon move into a election cycle: electing fraud laws. Let’s move fraud bills together as partners. We can pass smart fraud bills that are good for insurers, and right for the residents of your state.
About the author: Howard Goldblatt is director of government affairs for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.