Friday, January 23, 2009

Consumer Complaints and File Cabinets; Congratulations to IDOI for a Job Well Done

The last few days, the Indianapolis Star has reported on the positive work that the Department of Insurance has done in investigating and, yesterday, revoking the license of Marcus Schrenker. Today's article provides a summary of the charges:

Forging signatures on annuity applications. Selling insurance in states where he wasn't licensed. Failing to tell clients about early withdrawal penalties. Doctoring documents and lying to cover up his wrongdoing.

Those of you who know me or read this blog regularly know that for ten months I was an employee of the Indiana Department of Insurance, particularly the head of the Title Insurance Division. Events surrounding my sudden dismissal are in litigation. As has been detailed, the Commissioner, for reasons nobody understands, allows an upper level supervisor, a Democrat holdover no less, to basically run wild at the Department, doing whatever she wants. While everyone complains about the supervisor, and the problems she creates in doing their job, the Commissioner's response is always to agree that she's a bad manager, assure IDOI employees she will get better, and instruct them to work around the troubled manager.

Hopefully the litigation won't leave my friends at the Department of Insurance with the wrong idea that it is aimed at them. During the ten months I was employed at IDOI, I was extraordinarily impressed by the professionalism and dedication to public service of the IDOI employees. Unlike some agencies, the IDOI does not simply put consumer complaints in a file cabinet. They aggressively investigate consumer complaints and punish wrongdoers. When these folks are allowed to do their job by the troubled supervisor, they are fantastic advocates for consumers and help to create a fair business environment for insurance companies to operate.

Yesterday, I was in a court proceeding at which we discussed medical problems at a privately run jail. A nurse reported to the Attorney General numerous problems with medical care at the facility, including numerous specific rules and regulations that were being violated by the medical professionals at the facility. This is an area that clearly falls within the jurisdiction of the Attorney General's Office. From the Attorney General's website:
Medical Licensing – This section investigates and prosecutes complaints against health care practitioners and mediates complaints not appropriate for prosecution. There are 20 boards and committees that regulate health care practitioners, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, nursing home administrators, veterinarians or other health care practitioners.
Yet the Attorney General's Office never held an investigation. The complaint, as with many consumer complaints at the Attorney General's Office during Steve Carter's term, simply went into a file cabinet. In the absence of an AG investigation, the problems at the facility continued, with some inmates have getting hurt as a result of not getting their medication or medical care, some have even died. Between 2005 and 2008, approximately thirteen lawsuits have been filed against the company running the facility, many due to health care issues. Numerous other lawsuits would be filed as to if the private corrections company running the jail let inmates complete the internal grievance process, a requirement before filing a lawsuit.

As Greg Zoeller charts a new course for the Attorney General's Office, he would be wise to take a look at the aggressive approach the Department of Insurance takes to cases. When a consumer complaint is made at IDOI, it is not just shuffled off to a file cabinet. Rather it is taken seriously and investigated. If regulatory action is warranted upon completion of the investigation, IDOI does not hesitate to take action against those insurance licensees. That is exactly the type of aggressive approach we need in the Attorney General's Office.

1 comment:

Diana Vice said...

Maybe investigations are getting derailed because lobbyists with political connections are paid big bucks to derail any possibility of the AG or other government officials from looking into complaints made by citizens. It's not so much what you know, but who you know in this state. Good government is not a priority in some circumstances. I've cited numerous examples on my blog.