Problem of insurance fraud deserves more media attention

Published May 10, 1991|Updated Oct. 13, 2005

The recent letter to the editor regarding insurance fraud by a prominent personal injury attorney certainly makes clear that this type of fraud deserves much more attention by the media than it currently gets. The letter writer, however, did not go quite far enough. In a recent issue of Modern Maturity, the senior citizens' journal, one of the articles concerning Medicare noted that at least 25 percent of the payments made by Medicare are for fraudulent claims filed by doctors. Billings are made for services not performed or for services other than those actually performed, or for unnecessary procedures and other fraudulent or unethical practices. The article in Sunday's Times noting the difference between the quotes by a hospital for a procedure, and the almost 70 percent greater billing to an insurance carrier for the same, certainly puts these institutions under suspicion.

If the same percentages of fraudulent billings apply to private insurers as well as Medicare, given the hundreds of billions spent annually in this country on health care, there is more than enough money involved to take care of the indigent, the uninsured and the underinsured at least twice over.

What is probably most disturbing is that the professions of medicine, law and, yes, we can't omit politics _ which by definition should set the ethical if not the moral standards of the nation _ are themselves the most corrupt (e.g., many, many articles re gratuities from lobbyists to Florida legislators).

I must advise the letter writer that the insurance companies must bear some blame. As mayor of a small city for eight years, it was quite frustrating to see frivolous claims filed by attorneys settled for up to $2,500 or more because it was cheaper than fighting the claim in court. This allowed both claimant and his attorney to collect a more than modest sum merely by filing a piece of paper. And certainly both Medicare and private carriers could be much more diligent in pursuit of fraud perpetrators. It is apparently much easier for these carriers just to raise rates.

The American Bar Association has succeeded in emasculating "no fault" auto insurance legislation in just about every state that has tried to implement it, and also has succeeded in defeating legislation designed to control excessive "pain and suffering" awards in both accidental and medical malpractice actions. The American Medical Association has succeeded in stymieing any regulation of excess fees by physicians and surgeons (which in the United States, as a percentage of total medical costs, are more than double these same fees in other developed nations).

I guess, though, we shouldn't be too surprised. Any time such vast amounts of money are available with such little surveillance and accountability, there will be those ready to do most anything to lay their hands on it. What is so disturbing is that it is not just the few who are involved. The process seems to be almost endemic.

Donald F. Murphy, Dunedin

Nothing's free

Now, will all those educators who urged support for the lottery and helped to seduce a gullible public please come to the front of the class and write on the blackboard 1,000 times, "There is no free lunch"!

Sandra L. Cook, Seminole

More on recycling

The Pinellas County Recycling Committee would like to provide some important information that was not included in the special Earth Day 1991 section published on April 18:

1. Over 20 percent of our garbage is yard waste! More than 1,000 tons per month are being recycled into mulch, thanks to an innovative and cooperative pilot program. This mulch contains no weed seeds and can be acquired for free from 16 different locations in Pinellas County. Using mulch is also very important for water conservation.

2. For free brochures listing the pick-up sites for free mulch, the many benefits of mulch as well as a Quick Guide to Waste Reduction, contact the Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste Management Recycling Office at 2800 110th Ave. N, St. Petersburg, 33716. Information on not bagging grass clippings, home composting and xeriscaping may be obtained by contacting the Pinellas County Cooperative Extension Service at 588-8100.

3. Pinellas County is a leader in recycling in Florida, and Florida is a leader in the nation. The 1988 Solid Waste Management Act is one of the most comprehensive pieces of solid waste legislation in the nation. Many other states have copied this progressive legislation. Considering that recycling programs in Florida started in earnest only two years ago, we are much further ahead than many states!

Rebecca Stone-Franklin, chairperson,

Pinellas County Recycling Committee,

St. Petersburg

Seniority praised

Your April 30 Seniority section was masterful. Congratulations!

Vincent Giacinto, Dunedin

Rising gas prices

Re: Blame shared for rising gas prices, April 29.

If we reflect on past history, we will remember that gas prices soared when Hussein invaded Kuwait _ even though there was no oil shortage. There has not been an oil shortage.

Further reflection will show that oil company profits reached extremely high levels from that time to the present.

Our conclusion: The cause of rising gas prices is corporate greed.

Vincent D. Patton, St. Petersburg

Fenced fox hunting "inhumane'

Re: Battle looms on fenced fox hunting, May 6.

I was more than horrified to read of the state of Florida wanting to regulate the practice of letting dogs chase foxes and coyotes in enclosed hunting fields. I want to express my opposition to such an inhumane sport. Instead of calling it a sport, it should rightly be named a killing field. I cannot imagine such cruelty being condoned and tolerated.

Also, I cannot understand a state such as Florida tolerating animals being shipped or brought here for such a purpose.

Please do what you can to stop this inhumane killing of animals who cannot think or speak for themselves.

Erin L. Robinson, New Port Richey

Dan Quayle

I find the controversy surrounding the competence of Dan Quayle to be president a most fascinating subject. It seems to me that we have been over this ground many times before regarding the ability of those who run for all public offices. So far, no one has been able to explain to my satisfaction what constitutes an accurate measuring device regarding the necessary qualifications.

Looking back through history, it appears that many candidates for office had their talents denigrated in their own time, only to be lionized by the history books. As one who is neither a supporter nor a detractor of Vice President Quayle, I suggest that his critics look back at Presidents Lincoln and Truman and read some of the unflattering things said about them when first they attained their high office. Either the passage of time has been kinder to them than they deserve or their critics were way off base.

Roy Johnston, Port Richey

Re: Quayle bashing.

How soon we forget! Remember when Vice President Bush was called a "wimp"?

Harry Harper, Clearwater

Quayle as president, or "What, me worry?" C'mon people, think. We voted in the Bush-Quayle ticket and now 2{ or so years later we are questioning the qualifications of our vice president? Let's wake up and let us, the people, accept responsibility for our, the people's actions. So Quayle is scripted, so was President Reagan. So he's inept at times. So was President Reagan. These seem to be, well, qualifications for the job of president, at least as mandated by we the people. Maybe, just maybe, the problem isn't Dan Quayle's.

David Miller, St. Petersburg

With the specter of Dan Quayle hanging over my head, I pray most fervently for President Bush's full recovery.

John D. Woodward, Largo

A "new national priority'?

Attorneys everywhere must be rejoicing over your Making a case to punish incest article, April 28. It promotes a new dimension in reality, limitation statutes and legal awards by encouraging "the 10 to 40 percent of American women (who) were sexually abused as children" to come forward. Counting the average number of children per family, men who were abused (they count), many extended families with stepchildren, disgruntled ex-spouses, and three or four generations surviving today, absolutely no family will escape litigation. Congratulations, the Times has set a new national priority on the destruction of many innocent people while attorneys take it to the bank.

Mel Harles, St. Petersburg

The Times article by Stephen Nohlgren, while perhaps well intended, has placed many innocent parents in severe jeopardy _ especially successful parents with less successful children who have denied them carte blanche financing into their adult years. The Times article states: "Why am I making this up in my head?" I think we know the reason in some cases. As the article said, "Defendants usually don't relish a fight and settle out of court." What a sure-fire way to tap a successful parent for a hundred grand. Even the innocent would rather pay than face the embarrassment and humiliation of being accused of something so dastardly. Your article has certainly given many unsuccessful offspring the license to invent.

Robert Stevens, Clearwater

Danger outweighs benefits

I recently read an article concerning Sea World's desire to bring in some very poisonous snakes for the park.

Why? This is one of the most absurd ideas I have heard, with all the water in Florida and the even remote possibility they could escape. I would hope the Legislature will continue to have the good sense to prevent this from happening. Even with all the "security" available there will be someone who is smart enough to get around the regulations and get them in some local "show and tell" tourist trap where the regulations and security are not so strict. The danger far outweighs the benefits of education. If someone wants to learn about these snakes let them go to the library and read about them. National Geographic probably even has some beautiful color pictures.

R. Robinson, Oldsmar

A "ridiculous' idea

Regarding the article in the April 26 St. Petersburg Times about a national sales tax _ get real!

If taxpayers were willing to give it their wholehearted support, as the letter writer claims, they would not still have to be trying to get it passed after more than 10 years _ which proves how ridiculous an idea it always was, and always will be.

William Nee, St. Petersburg

Re: From bad to worse.

Your April 28 editorial on Florida's ridiculously regressive tax structure ends with the question, "When will modern Florida take charge of its own destiny?"

Your question is more truthfully stated as "When will the poor and middle classes overcome the taxing power of the wealthy elite?"

The answer to that question is very simple. It is: "Ha-ha-ha!"

Bud Tritschler, Clearwater

No dilemma

Re: Fetal tissue dilemma.

I see no dilemma at all. Do you know what is done when a fetus is aborted whether natural or otherwise? It is incinerated. Do you believe that this is better than improving the quality of life for a person who can benefit from fetal tissue? Is the body of someone who has just died desecrated because we may use his/her heart, kidneys, corneas, lungs to save or improve another's life? No. With all the naturally aborted tissue available the argument that a woman would become pregnant to sell fetal tissue is just plain nonsense.

Joseph H. Lerman, New Port Richey

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