Moose hunt bags workers' comp cheats

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2001

BANGOR, Maine (AP) -- Maine's popular moose hunt is bagging more than moose.

Since 1994, the state's largest workers' compensation insurer has used the list of moose lottery winners as a tool for catching people who defraud the system.

Maine Employers Mutual Insurance Co. compares its list of workers' compensation claimants with the names of moose permit holders on the Web site of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The company then sends out detectives to catch -- sometimes on videotape -- healthy hunters who claim to be disabled.

In the past five years, the company has used the moose permit list to catch 15 to 20 false claimants, with a high of seven in 1999, said John Marr, the company's vice president of claims.

MEMIC, a Portland-based insurer of 19,000 employers and their estimated 200,000 workers, is believed to be the first company to use moose lists to catch workers' comp cheats, but other states have followed, Marr said.

The company's moose hunt investigation in Maine was the focus of a panel discussion at the ninth annual Business Insurance Workers Compensation and Disability Management Conference held last month in Coronado, Calif.

During the panel discussion that looked at how public information could be used, MEMIC President John Leonard said seven of the claimants caught in 1999 were captured on videotape, four of them dragging away moose.

Marr said the company does not do a data analysis of deer hunters, because the list of license holders is too long -- as high as 180,000 some years -- and it would be too cumbersome. In this year's Maine moose, just 3,000 hunters were awarded permits.

But Marr allowed that MEMIC may expand its efforts to include the list of spring turkey hunt lottery winners, also published on the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Web site.

''This has nothing to do with hunting,'' Marr said. ''It has nothing to do with any outdoor activity. It has everything to do with people who are stating that they are too incapacitated to do any type of laborious work.''

Marr said the company's sleuths are looking for healthy claimants who are hauling 700- to 800-pound moose out of the woods.

But if claimants are simply riding in trucks and watching their designated hunting partner do the work, then they won't be bothered by MEMIC.

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