Insurance Fraud Cases Skyrocket In COVID Era

According to Cornell Law School, Insurance fraud “refers to any duplicitous act performed with the intent to obtain an improper payment from an insurer.” Fraud is a huge contributor to rising costs of insurance — and insurance fraud is on the rise itself, especially since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Many benefits were provided to help Americans who found themselves in COVID poverty, but millions of dollars fell out of the government’s pocket along the way.

But that’s not the only reason fraud cases are on the rise.

Kentucky resident Earl Lee Planck, Jr. (age 62) was convicted of crop insurance fraud and other related charges, and then sentenced to 56 months incarceration in December, 2021. 

The man bought crop insurance using his own name. He then claimed false losses on land with soil that wasn’t even able to grow tobacco, the crop in question. The land was wooded. Although this case was established more than a decade ago, similar cases are on the rise — because of COVID poverty, or the loss of income during the pandemic.

State prosecutors have been aggressive in prosecuting these individuals.

United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Jessica D. Aber said, “In the past year, Virginians have endured the physical, mental, and economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the last year, we have stood firm in our commitment to protect the programs implemented by Congress to assist community members suffering from the economic effects of this pandemic and, going forward, will continue to aggressively prosecute those who steal taxpayers’ funds.”

Dozens were charged in Virginia during the 2021 calendar year after the combined cases resulted in attempts to defraud the U.S. government of at least $105 million.

The most common types of fraud included: Paycheck Protection Program fraud, Economic Injury Disaster Loans fraud, Unemployment Insurance fraud, Personal Protective Equipment fraud, and Economic Impact Payments fraud.

How Many Marriages End After Political Climate Change Disputes?

Couples who were married 50, 40, or even 30 years ago might not have expected how controversial some topics were destined to become. Certainly, they might not have expected factors like Donald Trump and the erosion of Democratic norms — or man-made climate change and political blockades preventing us from doing anything about it because half the country’s citizens don’t believe it’s actually happening. 

How many marriages have ended due to these disputes?

Researchers have continued to make surprising finds. Some believe in a rise in violence worldwide in proportion to rising temperatures, much the same way as crime spikes in the summer months of the year. Others believe that climate change has resulted in more violence — specifically aimed at women and children. Equally alarming is another trend: couples are divorcing at much older ages than they once did.

When politics are so divisive, they impact relationship stability — and that trend extends toward the institution of marriage, which can’t always hold up under the tremendous pressure of these outside forces. Perhaps the biggest factor of all? “The Trump Effect.”

73-Year-Old Gayle McCormick divorced her husband after more than two decades of marriage because he voted for Trump, dismissing it as a “deal-breaker.”

She isn’t the only one! A December 2016 poll found that 16 percent of 6,000 people polled stopped communicating with friends of family as a result of differences of opinion regarding the election. Around the same number of people blocked friends or family on social media. And that was six years ago. If anything 2020 was far more divisive.

Wakefield Research found that more than one in five millennials ended a relationship because of political climate change. That number contrasts with one in ten Americans in any age bracket. But keep in mind, most millennials are in their 30s. They’re older, even if most people don’t see them that way yet. They have strong, ingrained beliefs about topics like climate change or economics.

Almost one in ten marriages are “politically mixed,” with at least one Republican and one Democrat. An additional 19 percent include either one Republican/Democrat and an Independent. 70 percent of all marriages in the United States are between spouses with the same political affiliation (although these people can still have political differences of opinion, too, of course). That means nearly 1/3 of all marriages in the United States are under political pressure.

What should be obvious is that the more divisive the political figure, the more divisive the politics become. Trump speaks about immigrants as if they’re all criminals when factually that isn’t the case. Democrats will never approve.

Thinking about divorce? You should go now. The number of divorce cases rose during the first few months of the year, but the wave has receded somewhat due to the Omicron variant of coronavirus causing a sudden surge in cases. Much of the work can be done at home or without the help of a lawyer. But should disputes arise, you can still discuss divorce proceedings with a lawyer from the comfort of your own home.

New State Environmental Laws For The New Year

When interviewed by the Washington Post about Biden’s leadership on climate change, famed activist Greta Thunberg didn’t mince her words. “If you call him a leader,” she said. “I mean, it’s strange that people think of Joe Biden as a leader for the climate when you see what his administration is doing.”

Although Biden has publicly said that man-made climate change is a danger we must all face together, his administration seems content with putting off the difficult task due to the current economic situation — which might mean the real struggle will be left to the next president or ignored altogether.

Thankfully, state governments are still planning to make changes of their own. For example, New Jersey, California, and New York are among a number of states who plan new initiatives or laws for the next year. 

New Jersey Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 274. The order provides a broad timeline for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent lower than their levels were in 2006. The order establishes a 2030 goalpost for this strategy. New Jersey also passed several other laws to tackle climate change.

California has passed at least ten laws to do the same. Senate Bill 596 aims to reduce carbon capture of cement. Senate Bill 339 provides funding for a new program that will charge drivers based on the vehicle’s efficiency. Other laws on the books seek to reduce the amount of single-use plastics that residents of the state use. Senate Bill 343 makes it illegal to use the recycle symbol on a plastic product if it cannot be recycled.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said, “Climate change and pollution are two of the most serious issues affecting New Yorkers’ health and quality of life. These pieces of legislation will ensure our state remains a national leader, not only in the fight for clean air and water, but in securing a cleaner, more sustainable future for generations as well.”

How Is Immigration Policy Connected To Insurance Law?

These two aspects of our society might seem unconnected to one another, but they each impact the other. The question of whether or not to provide immigrants or asylum-seekers will quality healthcare is one often asked in conservative circles — where you might often hear how immigrants are sucking away the resources the rest of us put into the pool. “Our taxes are paying for their healthcare!” We’ve all heard those words spoken.

The debate became more visceral when President Trump issued a proclamation on October 4, 2019. This legal code guaranteed that only “wealthy” immigrants would be allowed inside the country. If an individual could not pay for the costs of healthcare (and how many people can do that without insurance in the United States?), then they cannot enter or apply for a Green Card.

Trump justified his order: “Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”

According to an anonymous attorney from the Law Office of Ronald Freeman, “There is a disparity between the way America perceives healthcare and the way the rest of the world does. Here, we see healthcare as a privilege bestowed on those who earn it. In most other countries, healthcare is considered a human right. And this creates problems when we decide how to care for our immigrant population — especially when an individual is not an American citizen. Some of us feel we shouldn’t have to pay for it, but even if we didn’t provide immigrants with healthcare, we would face steep costs to the perception of our country on the world stage. Many times, this question ends up asked to a judge. So there are other costs as well. People fail to see them.”

The proclamation approved applications by people who received health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan, an unsubsidized plan on the market, and a few others. Those who were already issued a visa were exempt from the plan.

This proclamation was subsequently rescinded by President Biden shortly after his term started.  

Biden said, “My Administration is committed to expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare. We can achieve that objective, however, without barring the entry of noncitizens who seek to immigrate lawfully to this country who lack significant financial means or have not purchased health insurance coverage from a restrictive list of qualifying plans.”

Failing to provide immigrants with insurance could result in rising healthcare premiums for everyone else. This is true for any American citizen who fails to sign up for coverage. When someone who cannot pay for healthcare goes to the hospital, we still have to provide them with care. They are the ones who are usually saddled with the debt, but sometimes it goes unpaid. 

This is the primary reason why most first-world countries provide healthcare as a human right without the need for private insurance. It reduces the costs. That’s why our country has some of the highest costs of healthcare worldwide. 

Will New Laws Cut Health Insurance Premiums Even More?

Anyone living in poverty knows that the Affordable Care Act is subsidized. These subsidies can cut the cost of health insurance to zero. But what about everyone else? Some people are living above the poverty line, but still can’t afford to pay their bills without living paycheck to paycheck. Well, there is good news on the horizon. The state of Maryland is considering enacting SB 729, which would use a new program to mitigate costs for those aged 18 to 34.

Deputy Director Stephanie Klapper of Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative said, “Even if you’ve looked before for health coverage, it’s worth coming back to Maryland Health Connection, because there’s now savings available for those 18-to-34-year-olds. And thanks to the American Rescue Plan, there’s new assistance for households at all income levels, even for folks who are older than 18 to 34.”

According to Klapper, roughly 90 percent of Maryland residents who are currently enrolled in healthcare insurance programs can receive financial aid through the new plan. Check Marylandhealthconnection.gov for additional information.

Those who are older and still looking for health insurance need not worry.

Associate Director Tammy Bresnahan for AARP Maryland said, “That 50-to-64-year-old bloc, they are having problems going back to work, getting a job that has health insurance. So, open enrollment also helps them acquire health insurance, because they are most at risk.”

The aforementioned plans cover several aspects of healthcare: doctor visits, prescriptions, and even mental health services. 

Whether or not other states jump on board to reduce these healthcare costs remains to be seen. We can rightly view Maryland’s initiative as a pilot program that will help determine popularity. Should it go well, we can expect other initiatives to pop up all over the country. Rising healthcare costs have been problematic for decades, but this could go a long way to reducing the impacts of this problem.

Changes To Private Insurance After COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has not been easy for anyone. It has placed untold strain on individuals, families, business owners, and government officials. Decisions have been made that will have effects felt for years. Corporations like Kroger are now poised to remove benefits required after COVID — but sometimes only for unvaccinated workers who now also face additional surcharges for health insurance. Are these changes legal?

Not only are they legal, but they make sense for private insurers as well. The more people get sick, the more insurance providers have to pay. That’s why insurers reduce or eliminate costs of preventative healthcare, such as routine checkups — or vaccines. These measures help mitigate long-term issues people usually run into with age. Vaccines save lives and they cut costs for insurance providers.

So why would a private business boost premiums or add surcharges for unvaccinated workers?

The answer is obvious! Not only are insurance companies on board with “punishments” for those who refuse to be vaccinated, but companies also benefit from a healthy workforce. The more people are unvaccinated, the more likely it is that the workforce is gutted by COVID-19 during the next wave or whenever the next dangerous strain lands. 

We expect a number of lawsuits following these changes once implemented, but what difference will they make? Although the charges follow sound law, it’s difficult to say if that matters in the current landscape. Former President Donald Trump was allowed to install hundreds of judges at the federal level and three Supreme Court justices. They don’t always rule in favor of traditional conservative beliefs (and it’s primarily the right wing arguing against vaccine mandates or measures to make it more likely people will go get the vaccine), but often they do.

Many states have vaccine mandates. Resulting lawsuits have already been making their way to the Supreme Court, which has routinely ruled against lifting them. If Biden’s mandate ever makes its way to the highest courts, the same decision is likely: A 6-3 split in favor of mandates. There has been precedent for a century that an individual’s freedoms don’t supersede the freedoms of everyone else. In other words, you can’t risk making everyone else sick just because you don’t want or trust the vaccine.

Do you have questions about vaccine mandates or restrictions placed relating to these mandates? Visit website for more information.

Health officials have found that many vaccinated individuals who are getting sick with COVID today received their vaccine more than six months ago and should receive a booster shot. The boosters have been made available to most everyone.

If you’re having trouble signing up for private insurance or don’t have a job, then Healthcare.gov is open for signing up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare). Those living in poverty can expect big subsidies and might end up paying nothing to receive coverage. This is available to reduce the inflating costs of healthcare in the United States.

The Challenges Of Litigating Coronavirus-Related Cases

We’ve already discussed how we perceive the response to COVID-19 to go: there will be an influx of new cases, some with merit, most without. And, for better or worse, we were right. The landslide of coronavirus-related cases is difficult to follow, but we’re doing our best. Other law firms and legal experts have already agreed that litigating these cases — i.e. providing liability — is the biggest challenge.

Because personal injury lawyers work on contingency (meaning we only get paid when we win a case for our clients), we tend to avoid taking on cases that are destined to fail. Sometimes, when we strongly believe in a case’s merit but aren’t sure if it will win, we might provide our services pro bono. 

A number of new wrongful death lawsuits have challenged companies like Walmart or Royal Carribean, a popular cruise line. Are they liable when a customer or employee catch coronavirus and succumb to COVID-19? Of course, the circumstances for each individual case matter most.

The legal teams for these companies have mostly all made the same argument: that is, that Workers Comp and similar legal remedies are already in place and should be utilized in place of civil litigation (something that can be time-consuming and costly for court systems). 

Congress might reduce these cases to ash before they can really get going at all, though.

Mike Duff, a professor for Workers Comp at the University of Wyoming, said, “It is entirely conceivable that federal action could immunize employers or companies even from liability of these lawsuits.”

And even if Congress does nothing to protect businesses (as unlikely a scenario as that is), there’s still the question of how we can provide that a person actually contracted coronavirus on the job and not at home or while out walking the job. No one lives at work. There’s no easy answer to that question. It might come down to the political leaning of a particular judge — which isn’t how anyone wants these cases to go.

What Will Happen To The Insurance Industry After COVID-19?

Many Americans are on the brink of financial ruin because of the flailing economy, which took a nosedive nearly as soon as it became widely known the coronavirus was in the US to stay. With the rate of infection and fatality accelerating faster everyday, things are only guaranteed to get worse. What will the country’s healthcare system look like a few months from now? And how will the insurance industry adjust to the realities of coronavirus and COVID-19?

Millions of Americans are out of work due to the worsening crisis, and a $1200 check from the government won’t change that. Most people who lose their jobs will also lose their health insurance benefits, which means they’ve been paying into a system they will never be able to use. 

Some have been comparing the system to social security. When one pays social security taxes, it doesn’t matter if they stop working — they’re guaranteed something, no matter how little. Why shouldn’t health insurance work the same way? Even if you stop paying into the pool, you were paying. So when you stop, why shouldn’t you get at least a little helping hand when you get sick?

But the system will likely never work that way.

More likely, millions of Americans will soon be pressing for universal healthcare rights. Most Americans already believe healthcare should be a right, but conservative lawmakers have stalled efforts to enact such a system while describing it as a progressive pipedream. Tell that to the millions of people who are suddenly unemployed because of the very disease about to send them to the hospital.

COVID-19 is the reason they lost their jobs and the reason they can’t pay for COVID-19 related medical treatment? The flaws of the system were apparent to millions of Americans before COVID-19, but they’ll be even more apparent to many more after the crisis is over.

The harsh reality is this: the private health insurance industry might be destined to flatline as a result of this pandemic — but that moment won’t come soon enough to help those whose bills will become due much sooner. Lawmakers will have to deal with that fallout. Americans will be worried, angry, and searching for someone to blame. Who will fall first? That’s the real question.

For now, the best we can do is prepare for the worst case scenarios by staying indoors whenever possible. Do you have an insurance claim resulting from COVID-19 medical care? Contact a qualified insurance attorney today!

Justice Department Needs More Cash To Protect Environmental Agenda

It was probably only a matter of time. We live in an era in which most people understand the need to conserve, protect, and replenish the environment we’ve always taken for granted. But the Trump administration’s environmental policies have done anything but what the majority of the American people want. Nearly 75 percent are  worried about the effects of climate change, even though half of them vote for the guy whose policies do a great deal of damage to our environment.

Many law firms have taken the fight to the Trump administration with litigation. How has that worked out? It depends on your point of view.

But the bottom line is that the litigation, while it can help protect our environment, can become a burden for the taxpayer. Why is that the case? Simple. The federal government needs a way to pay both to defend its policies and to compensate the ones who win those cases. That’s why the Justice Department recently requested an infusion of cash from Congress — to protect not the environment, but the damaging agenda of this administration.

The Environmental and Natural Resources Division (har har) asked for an additional $796,000 to protect the administration’s policies. For the first time in history, agencies tasked with protecting our environment are headed by authority figures who argue climate change is a hoax or simply a left-wing lie.

The agency said, “Virtually every significant agency action implementing this agenda has been or will be challenged. This increased workload is no longer sustainable and additional resources are necessary for ENRD to continue to be able to allow the best possible defense of the Administration’s priority actions.”

What would the money pay for as soon as the new fiscal year begins? An additional five attorneys, two paralegals, and more staff. The Trump administration called his legal response to the lawsuits a “Smart, Responsible, Common-Sense, Effective Approach to Environmental Litigation.” We can argue all day about the merits — or lack thereof.

Much of the current litigation is fighting Trump’s consistent dismantling of Obama’s climate protections orders (and everything else the man accomplished in office — if nothing else, Trump’s presidency will be remembered for its societal response to the first African American who occupied the office). 

ENRD also wants another $4 million (on top of the current budget of $109.4 million in 2020) for other adjustments that have nothing to do with legal. 

When asked for information about budgetary allocations, the Justice Department failed to respond.

Academics Worry That Trump Might Fail To Update Old Environmental Protections

When the person in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a climate change denier, you know we’re in trouble. That couldn’t be more clear regarding the Trump Administration’s view of the old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a Nixon-era law passed with bipartisan support in 1970. NEPA is actually one of the most copied and pasted laws on the books when we look to other countries who have tried to follow our lead.

But the Trump administration wants to change exactly how it works. 

Andrew Wheeler, the guy in charge of this new counter-intuitive EPA, said that NEPA is the “Frankenstein of a regulatory regime.” He even called it a “welfare project.”

What it comes down to is this: changing the way NEPA works would remove a lot of power the public has. NEPA has a lasting legacy. You may have noticed a lot of before and after photos popping up on social media lately. They convey the message that changing or even gutting our longest-lasting environmental protections is a mistake by showing exactly what the world looked like before they were enacted. 

Remember cities clouded by a dense sea of smog? We might soon have that to look forward to once again.

The proposed changes would accomplish a few different things, supposedly on behalf of businesses who the old NEPA regulations hurt. At the top of the list is limiting environmental impact evaluation for infrastructure-related projects like building or maintaining highways and bridges, and setting down new oil pipelines (as if we need them). 

Trump said, “In the past, many of America’s most critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process. These endless delays waste money, keep projects from breaking ground, and deny jobs to our nation’s incredible workers.”

But they do a lot more than that. Those regulations save us money that we’ll have to spend down the road when the environment continues to break down as we bulldoze and build over wetlands and old growth areas. 

Most importantly — but not too surprisingly — the new changes would exclude any considerations about the effects of man-made climate change. 

But that’s not the way White House allies are pitching it to the public. American Exploration and Production Council CEO Anne Bradbury described the effort in another way: “The Administration’s modernization of NEPA removes bureaucratic barriers that were stifling construction of key infrastructure projects needed for U.S. producers to deliver energy in a safe and environmentally protective way.”

The problem is, pipelines have never been very good for the environment. Plus, the energy it takes to build new platforms for coal and oil is now more expensive than to build those for renewables. Why are we bothering? It might have something to do with the fact that Trump owes those companies his presidency. They might just get him a second term.