The impact of yesterday’s elections on anti-fraud efforts around the U.S. will become clearer once the results are analyzed in more detail.
Certainly the Republican sirocco that swept through the elections is shaking up an order that has opposed and supported state anti-fraud efforts.
For the most part, however, state anti-fraud legislation and budget funding are driven less by party lines and more by the priorities of the men and women who hold office.
Also look to powerful gate-keeping committees that decide which bills reach the floor. Complex insider agendas, alliances and political tradeoffs frequently affect bills far more than broad party affiliation. Politically powerful special-interest groups also can stall or push measures regardless of which party holds sway.
Still, the election results hint generally at things to come in several hot-button states.
Republicans gained control of the state House in Minnesota. That rattles a power structure that worked against fraud fighters this year. The chair of the House Commerce committee gives up his position. His committee gutted a promising bill that would’ve added civil penalties for fraudsters, tightened rules against bogus medical billing and treatments, and allowed dishonest medical providers to be booted from the insurance system.
This power shift may open the door for a fresh revisit of the bill.
Florida’s CFO was reelected. Jeff Atwater has taken strong anti-fraud stands in a state wracked by debilitating crash rings and medical fraud. Atwater’s continued presence could ensure a continued department-level priority on rolling up scams. Legislation to tighten the noose is murkier. Larger agendas involving reforming or even dumping the state’s no-fault auto system could surface. The future of fraud reforms could hinge on the outcome of those larger issues.
Oregon re-elected a governor who vetoed a bill making insurance fraud a crime a decade ago. That creates a political environment that looks ill-suited for passing a bill in 2015.
Kansas insurance commissioner Sandy Praeger is retiring. She was a stalwart supporter of anti-fraud efforts. Will her successor show the same commitment?
Closely watch Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland. Those states elected governors of the opposite party. They’ll likely install new insurance commissioners. Their anti-fraud priorities will merit close scrutiny.
New York’s statehouse has consistently stalled much-needed legislation clamping down on staged-crash rings. Nothing in yesterday’s voting seems likely to change that. Only the governor’s active backing can break a logjam that has lasted for several years.
Bills expanding the ability of insurers and regulators to share case information may be the one issue that benefits from the Republican surge. Giving insurers more leeway could be something that corporate-friendly legislators and regulators would support.
Special-interest politics has been a larger factor throughout the years than Red vs. Blue.
The well-funded and politically mobilized trial bar was a big factor in derailing the Minnesota bill and a Michigan measure creating an automobile-fraud prevention authority — both this year. The trial bar also reared up against no-fault fraud reforms in Florida in 2011 and 2012.
The bottom-line takeaway: On balance, fighting fraud crosses party lines. Putting a big dent in crime is a universal goal. Democrats and Republicans have fought hard for anti-fraud bills, and helped thwart them. Fraud fighters must be well-mobilized regardless or who’s in power. They must be prepared to build strong cases that anti-fraud bills are pro-consumer. Just as important, they must build close relationships with committees, and with members of the broader legislature.
This is closer to the universal roadmap for influence and impact. For fraud fighters, the issue is less Red or Blue, and more Red, White and Blue.
About the author: Jim Quiggle is director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.