“I believe the children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way,” the late Whitney Houston sang in the iconic R&B hit Greatest Love of All.
Those words generally resonate with anyone who has or knows a young son, daughter, brother, sister, niece or nephew. Or just simply knows an awesome and impressionable child.
Who would want to hurt an infant or toddler?
Or make the battle of puberty more challenging for juveniles and adolescents?
Or even ruin a child’s life, right?
Greedy insurance scammers do. More cases of children being exploited for insurance scams are making the news rounds lately.
Here are just some of the latest abuses:
Joaquin Rams no longer wanted his child. He had been having financial problems and planned on moving out of his home. The Manassas, Va. dad took out $524,000 of life-insurance policies on his 15-month-old infant son Prince. Hard-up for money, Rams either suffocated or drowned the toddler though the cause of death could not be determined. Rams received life in prison for his terrible parenting skills and murder.
Troy Leonard sexually abused eight child patients. The Newton, N.J. special-ed consultant sexually assaulted the children under age 13 multiple times, then billed insurers for bogus treatment services he never provided the children. Nor was he even licensed to provide the counseling he advertised. Leonard received 10 years in prison and lost his license.
Dayton home-health provider Mollie Parsons was supposed to take care of 14-year-old Makayla Norman. The bedridden child had severe cerebral palsy and couldn’t move or talk. Parsons let Norman starve to death while billing Medicaid for no-show home care — sometimes on days she was on shopping sprees. Makayla was a skeleton, infested with lice and with a soiled diaper. Parsons received only 10 years in state prison and will serve up to five years in federal prison afterwards.
“Mother” Ana Ovando cared less about her children and more about her loyalty to a staged crash gang. The South Florida mom abused her children. She then packed them into cars as part of 3 staged crash wrecks so she could make false whiplash claims. The children even begged their mom to stop the crash cons. Although the children survived unharmed, Ovando asked them to lie for her in court about the crashes when caught. The kids’ rehearsed pleas and tears to let their mother go didn’t work: Ovando received 6.5 years in jail.
These are just a few of the awful insurance plots that victimized children.
You’d think there would be stronger procedures, laws or regulations preventing abuses of kids for insurance. While some exist, fraudsters always find loopholes … or better yet, a child to fill that loophole.
Regardless, children are the true victims. The physical and emotional scars from being used as collateral damage for insurance grabs can inflict years of psychological damage on the young.
Greater legal and consumers protections are needed to safeguard children from becoming victims and pawns of insurance greed. Insurers, legislators, fraud fighters and consumer advocates should consider the following:
• More states should limit the age of kids for whom parents can take out life insurance. Few states have such limits. A recent Washington Post oped citing Dennis Jay highlights other needed reforms. Insurers should be alert to fraud when a parent buys a life policy on a child;
• Consumer education will help alert parents of red flags for inflated, invasive and worthless treatment by shady dentists and docs; and
• Laws and regulations should be enacted to prevent children from being exploited for insurance money. Maybe make exploiting a child for insurance fraud a specific crime, or a specific crime of child abuse.
“Show them all the beauty they possess inside,” Whitney continued to sing in The Greatest Love of All. “Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.”
Whitney is right. Every child deserves a chance to live and explore life and the beauty within themselves. Free of abuse and harm.
About the author: Elijah Mercer is research associate of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.