UNUM Is Still Doing It To the Disabled

UNUMProvident is the gigantic disability insurance company that operates in both the US and the UK.

In UK it advises the Work and Pensions department, a loose equivalent of the US Social Security Administration, on how to “limit liability” – a euphemism for “deny claims”. 

According to ConsumerAffairs website on Nov. 13, 2002 UNUMProvident had 30% of the market for disability insurance, making it the largest provider in the US.

It has been rated as the second worst insurance company in the US. A survey of its policy holders found that 45% were either very dissatisfied (36%) or dissatisfied; 45% were “somewhat” (?) satisfied; 0% were very satisfied and 9% were satisfied. The 45% who were “somewhat” satisfied seem to be damning with faint praise. If you add them to the 45% who were dissatisfied you get 90% who were either neutral or negative vs the 9% who were either satisfied or very satisfied.

The above referenced rating included insurance companies that don’t offer disability insurance, such as Allstate, the company that ranked worst. I speculate that if car and home owner insurance customers were eliminated from the survey, UNUMProvident would rank as the worst disability insurance provider.

In the last 8 years UNUMProvident has cleaned up its image but has it cleaned up its act?

In 2002 a class-action lawsuit was brought against them in NY. It alleged that UNUM was a “disability denial factory”. Documents provided by former employees disclosed that UNUM gave out a “Vulture Award” for the most claims denied. The lawsuit also alleged that the company used non-medical personnel to decide which claims to deny and then used its 100 on-staff doctors to create a paper trail to justify the decision.

It also came to light that prior to settling with insurance regulators in several states, they offered loans to their claims adjusters and then allowed them to pay off the loans with credits for money saved by denying claims. This ranks right up there with pimps getting hookers addicted to drugs and then controlling them by supplying the drugs, or Mafiosos loaning money and then coercing the borrower into their illegal activities in order to repay them.

Particularly fascinating, since in UK Works and Pensions has decreed that the neuroimmune disease ME/CFS is mental and not biological, is the case of the eye surgeonwho developed a “phobia that caused his hands to shake” and couldn’t do surgery anymore.

Dr. Randall Chapman had paid premiums for long term disability (LTD). UNUMProvident paid his claim for 3 months and then denied it, saying their doctors disagreed with that diagnosis.

A California jury awarded Dr. Chapman $31.7 million in damages in 2003. In Florida, Dr. John Tedesco, an ophthalmologist who developed Parkinson’s disease won $36.7 million in federal court. UNUM then appealed and the cases were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts.

If this had happened in UK, would UNUM have offered these doctors GET (Guided Exercise Therapy), CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and antidepressants for six months and told them to go back to work?

In 2007 the BBC aired at least two reports on UNUM and the job it was doing at Works and Pensions, calling it a “rogue” company. I viewed those reports on YouTube. They can no longer be found on YouTube, nor can they be found by searching the BBC website. It’s as if they never existed, but there are references to those broadcasts all over the web, so I know my memory is not playing tricks on me. One of them on YouTube now has anannouncement that the up loader has “closed their YouTube account”.

CBS’s 60 Minutes program with Ed Bradley reported on UNUM in 2002. Read the transcriptfor chilling conversations with former employees, including doctors, who say they were pressured to meet monthly income goals by denying claims. One doctor was fired for not complying. California’s insurance commissioner called UNUM an “outlaw company”.

See this 2009 article “Denying Disability May Be Just One of UNUM’s Profitability Tricks” for one legal firm’s take on UNUM as an investment risk. It ends with “…it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for Unum to bank on honesty instead of smoke and mirrors for a change.” – referring to UNUM’s investor relations.

Speaking of investors, I wish someone would ask Simon Wessely and the other ME/CFS denialists in UK whether they, their spouses, children or any other relatives own stock in UNUMProvident. Could this be why Myra McClure is “1000% sure” there is no XMRV in UK? Could this be why Wessely told the BMJ Podcast “The cause of CFS onset is irrelevant to management of the condition”, and he would not treat viruses in CFS patients even if detected, because he is “in the business of rehabilitation”. Commenting on a study that stated XMRV virus was found in two thirds of CFS patients, Wessely said this research “fails to model the role childhood abuse, psychological factors, and other infections may play in the illness”.

Policyholders past and present allege that UNUMProvident claims to lose crucial documents from their doctors, their Congressional representatives and themselves. UNUM then denies claims, saying they didn’t get the documents in the proper time frame or they didn’t get them at all.

UNUM’s strategy seems to be that losing in court is just a cost of doing business. It’s like a license to steal from all those premium-paying, deniable little people in order to pay the disabled doctors and lawyers who can afford to take them to court, plus rewarding UNUM investors, and their CEO.

In 2009 UNUM’s CEO Thomas Watjen received $8.79 million in compensation. Perhaps he deserves the biggest Vulture Award of all.

Biomedical ME/CFIDS

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