WITH GOV. LARRY HOGAN’S signature on a bill, Maryland last week joined Washington and New York as one of the few states requiring insurance companies to be more diligent before insuring the lives of children. Like those states, Maryland was spurred to act by a high-profile instance of a child killed for insurance money. It should not take the murder of a child to wake lawmakers to the need to act on this issue. Other states now should follow Maryland’s lead to protect vulnerable, young lives.
Mr. Hogan (R) last week signed legislation, to take effect in January, that mandates insurance companies tighten underwriting procedures and standards on juvenile life insurance policies. Insurers will have to undertake more rigorous verifications to guard against fraud and evil intent. The bill was sponsored by Del. Erek L. Barron (D-Prince George’s), who became interested in the issue after reading our editorials about Prince McLeod Rams, the 15-month-old Montgomery County boy murdered by his father in 2012 for more than $500,000 in fraudulently obtained insurance.
That Prince’s father had no trouble obtaining insurance on his infant son — basically over the phone and with no questions asked about his shaky finances or suspicious résumé — underscored the lack of scrutiny attached to policies seen as so-much-easy profit by the insurance industry. Mr. Barron called the need for legislation a “no-brainer,” and the General Assembly apparently agreed, as the bill sailed to approval with unanimous votes in both chambers.
Prince’s mother, Hera McLeod, told us she will never be at peace with what happened to her son, but “if there is any silver lining to be found from this horrible tragedy, it is through this kind of legislative progress — and my son will have saved the lives of other children.” She noted, though, that while Maryland made the changes after one of its own was killed, the policy on his life was taken out in a different state, underscoring the need for national action. According to Dennis Jay, executive director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud which has pushed for tighter controls on juvenile insurance, congressional action is unlikely and would be challenged as counter to the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act, which gives states exclusive domain over insurance regulation.
That puts the onus on states. States such as Georgia, where 2-year-old Tyrael McFall was killed with codeine in 2014 for $50,000 in life insurance taken out by his mother. States such as Minnesota, where 10-year-old Barway Collins was killed by his father, who was in financial straits and stood to collect tens of thousands of dollars in insurance taken out on the boy. And states such as Virginia, where Prince’s father lived — and where he killed his son.
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