Minnesota lawmakers passed a bill Sunday that makes the punishment for insurance fraud harsher. The new insurance fraud law is intended to put a stop to fraud rings and would impose large civil fines to bankrupt fraudsters.
New Minnesota Law Stiffens Penalties for Insurance Fraud
In June 2015, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a bill passed by the legislature to take a stronger stance against insurance fraud, which has been a major problem in many parts of the state. Under the new legislation, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has the authority to initiate civil investigations and potentially impose civil fines on perpetrators of insurance fraud without having to wait for the conclusion of time-intensive criminal prosecutions. Insurance fraud costs U.S. taxpayers approximately $30 billion each year, and Minnesota residents are all too familiar with the spread of this problem.
Common Types of Insurance Fraud
The typical schemes of insurance fraud involve staged or planned vehicle wrecks with the purpose of obtaining a claim payout from the insurance company for the manufactured damage. Insurance can also involve any type of falsification of documents in reporting a claim. For instance, if someone purposefully reports insured property as stolen when it actually wasn’t, this is a type of insurance fraud and will be penalized according to the amount involved in the fraudulent claim. People also commit insurance fraud by choosing not to report outside sources of payment for property damaged in an accident in their claim. These people are essentially seeking a double recovery and hope to pocket the amount of the fraudulent claim paid out by the insurance company. Medical providers can also participate in fraudulent insurance schemes by falsifying reports of the value or nature of medical services provided to an alleged victim of an accident. This can occur with or without the knowing participation of the allegedly injured accident victim and can involve substantial sums of money per fraudulent claim.
Minnesota’s Problems with Insurance Fraud
Organized insurance fraud in Minnesota has been on the rise. In fact, Minnesota is one of the fastest-growing states in the country for fraudulent insurance claims. In 2014 alone, the number of staged car accidents and bogus medical insurance claims in Minnesota rose by 22%. Bringing false claims against insurers is a substantial source of income for criminal enterprises, and it has serious consequences for law abiding citizens. The Insurance Federation of Minnesota estimates that insurance fraud in Minnesota costs the average family more than $1,400 per year in higher premiums and other associated costs. This is a significant drain on the entire insurance system, and there have been active lobbying efforts for some time to bring harsher penalties to deter the criminal activity that has driven up the costs for innocent drivers.
How the New Insurance Fraud Law Will Deter Insurance Fraud
Because of the notoriously weak enforcement system against insurance fraudsters in Minnesota, the state attracted a slew of fraudsters and criminal enterprises hoping to stay under the radar. This lead to the drastic increase in fraudulent insurance claims in Minnesota in recent years. The state prosecutes insurance fraud claims as theft and imposes fines and penalties accordingly. The more money fraudulently paid out fThe new insurance fraud law imposes steep civil fines and penalties for perpetrators of insurance fraud. In addition, the new insurance fraud law cracks down on medical providers who are found to be providing services fraudulently. Those doctors may now be denied payment from insurance companies.
It remains to be seen what effect the new insurance fraud law will have on the amount of fraudulent insurance claims in Minnesota. From the perspective of the insurance companies, the legislation is a big step in the right direction for deterring fraudulent claims and sending a message to criminal enterprises that Minnesota is tough on fraud.