The Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud

 

In the summer of 2003 the Insurance Council of Texas (ICT) reached out to the Fraud Unit of the Texas Department of Insurance and asked, why can’t we work together to fight a common enemy, fraud.  It was the start of what would become the Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud.

 

The committee’s first meeting took place on January 24, 2004, at the Texas Department of Insurance.  SIU’s from property and casualty and life and health showed up as well as industry government relations officials and representatives from state agencies that handled insurance matters.   Various district attorneys’ offices and the Texas Attorney General’s office were also represented.  Another meeting just three months later solidified the committee’s determination to address issues that had long plagued investigators who had tried to disrupt the ever changing schemes and scams of insurance fraud criminals. 

 

The committee helped guide five bills into the 2005 legislative session and three of them passed.  Their success would not have taken place without the aid and direction of, at the time, State Representative Larry Taylor, an insurance agent.

 

The 81st legislative session may have been our most successful with the passage of one bill.  HB 148 makes it unlawful for lawyers or health professionals, including chiropractors, to solicit business by telephone or in person for the first 30 days after an auto accident or weather catastrophe.  This was atop the committee’s priority list of legislation. 

 

Governor Rick Perry vetoed similar legislation in HB 1519.  Only days after the veto was carried out, members of the Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud sought to find out why the veto was made and do something about it.  The committee met with the Governor’s office on several occasions and discussed the best wording for the new bill.

 

With the assistance of the law firm of Thompson and Coe, wording was hammered out that satisfied the governor’s office and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Todd Smith of Euless.  With an unlikely camaraderie of support from both the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and the Texas Chiropractic Association, HB 148 weaved its way for the second time through the legislative process.   Albert Betts, at the time with the law firm of Thompson and Coe, handheld HB 148 through the House and Senate and helped ensure its passage. 

 

HB 1634 was also atop the committee’s list of priority legislation and it died after passing through the House but coming to a halt in the Senate Transportation Committee.  The legislation would have restricted auto accident reports from being sold to telemarketers for the first 30 days.  Rep. Smith also carried this legislation and Betts helped guide the bill through the legislative process.   The opposition to the bill was never revealed until the waning days of the session. 

 

The committee continue to work with the Texas Department of Transportation in permanently removing the phone numbers from crash reports.  The committee had succeeded in keeping these numbers off of the reports until telemarketers through a series of court maneuvers fought to make this information public.  Upon the testimony of the Committee’s Mark Hanna, directors at TxDOT removed the personal phone numbers off of the accident reports.

 

In its first year the committee struggled with prompt pay legislation that frustrated life/health investigators because of the lack of time it allowed for flagging and investigating fraudulent health claims.  The Texas Legislature had fought for years to pass this legislation and once in place, lawmakers were reluctant to touch their finished product.  The committee turned to the insurance commissioner for a possible rule change that would give life/health SIUs more time to do their job, but we were turned down.  Unfortunately, many life/health SIUs gave up their fight through the committee to tackle the issue.

 

The Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud is open to anyone interested in fighting insurance fraud.  The committee remains committed to assist the entire industry in its ongoing battle with fraud.  It’s a never ending process and despite any successes or failures, the committee will continue to do what it can to make it more difficult for criminals to operate in the state of Texas.

 

The Insurance Council of Texas pays for the legal counsel to assist the committee in its support of anti-fraud legislation.  Key supporters of the committee have been the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.  For information on upcoming meetings, contact mhanna@insurancecouncil.org.

 

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Events

Dec 10

Senate Business and Commerce Committee meeting

Texas State Capitol, room E1.016

Dec 12

Texas Sunset Commission

Public testimony on TWIA

Jan 8

86th Texas Legislative Session convenes