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New anti-fraud unit created hopes to lower insurance prices in Michigan

For the second year in a row, Michiganders will see an increase in the mandatory fees to cover unlimited medical benefits for injured drivers, under the state's catastrophic claims program. Do you think the program is valid? (WWMT/MGN Online)

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder created a new anti-fraud unit within the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS), with the goal of investigating insurance and other types of fraud.

When Snyder created the unit within DIFS, he gave it the authority to conduct criminal investigations into suspected fraud, whereas prior to this new unit, other partnerships had to be made for those to happen.

“We were not the criminal investigatory bodies involved, we would have to partner with law enforcement entities actually have any charges brought or arrests made on that type of individual or company,” DIFS General Counsel Randall Gregg said.

Gregg said most of those other agencies have much broader responsibilities than just focusing on fraud investigations. He said sometimes DFIS has worked with the attorney general’s office in the past on fraud investigations and expects even more collaboration now.

“We anticipate that with the establishment of this unit, that partnership is just going to grow,” he said.

While the Michigan Attorney General’s Office oversees the Consumer Protection Agency, Gregg stands by the statement that the new DIFS anti-fraud unit will solely be responsible for insurance fraud investigations. However, the divide between Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette is clear; Snyder endorsed Lt. Gov. Brian Calley in the Republican primary and will not be endorsing anyone in the general election.

Following this announcement by Sndyer was asked if there were political motivations behind the move. Snyder’s Communications Director Ari Adler issued the following statement:

Gov. Snyder has had this idea under review for some time. It is based on the need for fraud investigation. There’s plenty of work to go around on that if the Attorney General’s Office wishes to engage, as well. This was done to protect Michiganders, not for political purposes.

As for Schuette, his Campaign Spokesperson John Sellek said they see this as the Governor “taking action.”

Sellek said, "As you know the legislature worked hard trying to find reforms but hasn't come together yet. And why wouldn't Michigan families expect that kind of action? No one who pays auto insurance in this state would want the Governor to sit on his hands— they want action."

The National Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates at least $80 billion is lost each year to all types of fraud nationwide. This unit aims to not only investigate and prosecute criminals, but also hopes to see insurance prices fall as less fraudulent activity is seen in the market.

“Fraud in the system drives up the cost of insurance for all Michiganders, and we need to do everything we can to eradicate it,” Snyder said in a press release.

That same release had a statement from Calley, who believes DIFS is the appropriate agency to oversee the new expansion.

“Allowing the Department of Insurance and Financial Services to directly identify and combat fraud is a major step toward lowering costs and protecting consumers,” Calley’s statement said.

Gregg agreed and said, “It will also be valuable that this unit is housed within the department because we have insurance experts right here.”

There’s no set date yet for when the anti-fraud unit will start its work, but Gregg said when that happens, he expects the unit will be busy.

“We will have thousands of complaints,” he said.

Public Information Officer for DIFS Andrea Miller noted that the agency is fee funded through the industries it regulates and this new anti-fraud unit will be no different, meaning no tax dollars will be spent on the expansion.

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