Oklahoma is not the first state to fire fraud investigators en masse during the current economic downtown.
It is the first, though, to do so with the explanation that investigating claims fraud is not the business of the state.
Six of nine investigators got the axe yesterday — all six dedicated to investigating claims fraud.
Randy Brogdon, the deputy commissioner of insurance who recommended the firings was quoted in the local newspaper:
“The companies need to handle their own claims. Investigating policyholders is not a function of the Insurance Department.”
We respectfully disagree. The state law creating the fraud unit clearly says its function is to investigate any violation of Oklahoma’s insurance fraud statute, which includes claims fraud.
It’s a bit surprising that Mr. Brogdon doesn’t know this since up until a few weeks ago he was a state senator.
Following the firings, one of the soon-to-be displaced investigators was quoted as saying “If I were going to commit insurance fraud in Oklahoma, I would feel pretty confident I could get by with it.”
That’s not a message you want to send to a public that’s already too tolerant of unethical behavior when it comes to insurance.
And at the same time, insurers are being told fraud doesn’t matter. There’s no government agency to take your cases, so just pay the claims and increase your rates.
Insurers in the state are required to pay an annual assessment of $750 to fund the unit. They also are required to report any suspected fraud to the DOI. So . . . why would this regulation be in place if they fraud unit was not created to investigate claims fraud?
Nearly every other state has an active fraud bureau that partners with insurers and others to keep fraud in check. We’ve seen insurers increase investment in anti-fraud in states that adopt good laws and create effective fraud units. This partnership not only helps to detect, investigate and prosecute insurance crime, but the data suggest it creates a deterrence as well.
Oklahomans will end up paying more for insurance, no doubt. We encourage the insurance department to reconsider this decision.