Minnesota lawmakers are taking another run at curbing rampant insurance fraud in Minnesota, a state they say has become a target for organized crime because of legislative loopholes.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, and Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, will provide extra money for the state Commerce Department’s anti-fraud unit, add hefty fines to people found guilty of insurance fraud, and place a 30-day “cooling off” period before accident reports can be accessed to curb solicitation on drivers involved in accidents.
Fraudsters take advantage of Minnesota’s “No-Fault” system to stage accidents, then rack up injury claims to receive payments. Others will solicit accident victims for pricey and unnecessary medical care where insurance companies are overbilled. In 2013 alone, Minnesota received 1,700 questionable insurance claims, according to Tim Lynch, Government Affairs Director for the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Jensen, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Insurance Reform, said a similar measure failed to gain traction last session over some discrepancies in the bill's language which have since been addressed. Jensen said Minnesota, which ranks fourth in the country in suspected fraud claims, has become a magnet for crooks as other states crack down.
“There has to be some kind of deterrent for people who choose to go into this type of work; they’re making a lot of money at it, and we have to do this on behalf of consumers,” she said. “It’s a long road. I don’t think this is something we originally intended would take one session to do.”
The new policy would be funded in part through reallocating money from a surcharge Minnesotans pay in their auto insurance designed to prevent theft that has since been moved to the general fund.