A supposed truism of government affairs is that legislation can take up to three years to go from a great idea to introduction, then to passage and finally being signed into law.
Maryland and Alabama disprove this notion at its extremes.
I just returned from Annapolis, where I was invited to see Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley sign two fraud bills into law.
One gives the insurance department the authority to seek civil penalties against insurance fraud suspects. The second bill allows more exchange of case information among insurers, law enforcement, regulators and organizations like NICB. Fraud fighters thus gain better ability to jointly unravel large fraud schemes such as medical mills that steal from multiple insurers.
The idea for these bills came from the Coalition’s government affairs committee just last year, then introduced early in the 2012 session. They then took all of 90 days to become law, just as the brief session closed. That’s a far cry from the three-year “truism.”
Alabama sits at the other extreme. Fully 17 years ago, legislators started talking about making insurance fraud a specific crime, and creating a fraud bureau. The Coalition assisted in drafting the measure.
Essentially the same measure passed this spring. Yes, 17 years later. That’s nearly Biblical in proportion, and longer than it took the United States to build the Panama Canal.
For a variety of reasons, fraud bills didn’t gain any traction year after year after year. But there were several near misses along the way. One year a bill died while waiting for a final vote that would’ve sent it to governor.
The governor is expected to sign the current measure into law. But since we’ve waited all these years for it to pass, I think we can we wait a few more days for the final act.
Should we be upset about that Alabama took 17 years to pass a fraud bill when Maryland finishes the job with two bills in just 90 days?
I don’t think so. There is a new movie with a line that should sum up our thoughts about Alabama, Maryland and every other state as they consider insurance fraud laws: “Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, then it is not the end.”
About the author: Howard Goldblatt is director of government affairs for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.