Thursday, 27 February 2014 17:57

MN Laws Said to Encourage Insurance Scammers

Insurers, prosecutors, and lawmakers from both parties argued that loose Minnesota laws encourage insurance scammers as the coalition made a case for 11 legislative measures they say will crack down on costly fraud. The proposals headed to the legislature for consideration in the upcoming session represent a rare area of partisan consensus around the Minnesota no-fault insurance laws. They were honed through a working group that drew in factions from the medical, insurance, and trial lawyer communities.

“It is not a victimless crime. Virtually everyone in the state of Minnesota pays the price for insurance fraud,” said Mark Kulda of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, who appeared at a news conference to announce the anti-fraud package.

The bills would close perceived loopholes in claims processing, information sharing, investigations, and fraud prosecutions. While the type of fraud varies, some of it involves people using minor car accidents to gain access to prescription medication they later resell. In other cases, unscrupulous contractors prey on storm victims with home-insurance claims for work never performed.

Among the proposed steps:

—Allow the Minnesota commerce commissioner to impose civil penalties for acts of fraud, which is seen as easier than obtaining criminal convictions.
—Limit access to auto accident records that can be used by schemers to solicit victims unknowingly used to perpetrate fraud.
—Give insurance companies liability protection when they exchange claims data with law enforcement that can be analyzed to spot fraud rings.

As states including New York and Florida stiffen their insurance laws, advocates of the new measures say people who engage in fraud are looking for weak spots.

Tim Lynch, government relations director at the industry-backed National Insurance Crime Bureau, said fraud schemes have migrated to Minnesota.