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Manning front lines of legislation

BLOG_mailThis week I have the pleasure of speaking about legislative affairs at one of Americaʼs largest gathering of insurance investigators, IASIUʼs annual training seminar.

Hundreds of investigators from around the nation are exchanging ideas and learning about new techniques for attacking schemes. The Coalition is holding a workshop on how the investigators can strengthen state anti-fraud laws — and the fraud fight — by getting involved in legislation.

Investigators are uniquely qualified. They are at the front lines of combating this crime. They know how the crimes, how a stateʼs insurance fraud laws work, what loopholes need filling, and why.

Most insurer state lobbyists also are only marginally versed in fraud laws, nor do they necessarily view insurance fraud as their highest priority.

But investigators can educate insurers to fully understand the gaps in fraud laws or regulations. They also can clearly articulate an insurerʼs stake in the outcome. This new understanding can help convince more insurers to support and pursue anti-fraud agendas.

Hands-on grassroots involvement is another vital role investigators can play. Most insurer lobbyists are in-house counsel or contracted lobbyists based in the capital. National experts also may fly in to boost the effort.

But fraud investigators live in the state and are constituents of the legislators. And constituents like these can have influence — if they mobilize.

Years ago as a congressional staffer, I wrote an article for a trade association journal. It was a primer on working with a legislative office. I used the “Rule of 5.” One constituent letter does not raise eyebrows in an office. Five letters makes the office wonder if the writers are related or neighbors. And 25 letters could be a groundswell that can convince a legislator how to vote on an issue.

The more people contact their legislators, the greater the likelihood that the lawmakers will listen closely to the messages and pursue the issue. Now that is an effective grassroots effort. And it challenges investigators to flex their political muscles.

Investigators, for instance, can invite legislators to visit insurer claims operations and see firsthand how investigators are protecting constituents from fraud schemes, and deterring other would-be cheaters. High on the invite list should be key legislators such as committee chairs who deal with insurance-fraud issues.

A final thought — do not assume who your opponents will be. Some groups that normally oppose insurers might be allies who support anti-fraud bills.

A couple of years ago, the Coalition brought consumer groups and insurers together to successfully push for no-fault auto reforms in Florida. They were part of a larger package of no-fault reforms.

And several years ago the District of Columbia insurance department worked with the Coalition, insurers and — believe it or not — the trial bar to pass legislation limiting solicitation of auto crash victims for treatment at shady clinics.

So investigators this week are learning how they can play a leadership role in legislative anti-fraud efforts, and why their involvement is needed.

About the author: Howard Goldblatt is director of government affairs for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

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