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Unum: Brand New Shoes, Same Old Story

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Chattanooga, TNIt would have been little surprise to any Unum policyholder stung by the claims behavior of Unum Provident (now known simply as 'Unum') to hear that Unum placed near the top of a list that named the worst insurers in the United States. In fact, in a survey conducted by the American Association of Justice (AAJ), Unum ranked number 2, in part due to its long reputation for delaying and denying claims.

Insurance ShoppingIn recent years Unum has attempted a multi-million-dollar makeover—a rebranding that one could assume was driven by the endless stream of media reports and negative press over its alleged practices with regard to denial of claims in an effort to mitigate payouts by the company. However, in spite of their best efforts, Unum can't seem to escape from its reputation as on ogre.

Policy holder complaints with regard to Unum delaying claims, stopping or withholding payments, accusing policy holders of being healthy and capable of working when they were anything but, intimidation tactics and pushing valid claims over to social security in an effort to get away from paying—all these tales are legion. What's most galling is that it appeared as if Unum had policies in place that rewarded employees for stalling, or denying legitimate claims in order to mitigate payouts. There were quotas with regard to the number of claims successfully taken out of play, which would represent cost savings to the company.

Various statements by former employees seem to back these allegations up.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by FreeAdvice.com found 36 percent of Unum clients 'very unsatisfied' with their insurance provider. The largest group of respondents—45 percent—was 'somewhat satisfied' with Unum, and the remainder of the survey breaks out this way:

Extremely Satisfied: 0%
Very Satisfied: 9%
Somewhat Satisfied: 45%
Unsatisfied: 9%
Very Unsatisfied: 36%

Then there are the true stories of Unum clients who have been pushed into a tight corner by their insurance provider. Some of the stories have been heartbreaking, with numerous reports of clients having to empty their 401(k)s and exhaust their life savings just to survive, because Unum delayed or cancelled outright their legitimate claim.

"Unum will do everything in their power to deny your benefits," writes one disgruntled client. "They will engage you in months and months of paper work, doctor's reports which they will say they never received or are not satisfactory. It is impossible to get through their hierarchy to reach a supervisor. They are listed as one of the largest insurers in the US. Yet, there has been successful litigation against them and a class action suit in the millions. They have given me nothing but heart ache, while I am already diagnosed with 3 serious and documented medical problems."

Another says, "I got denied for short term without much explanation. They have dragged out the appeal process by saying they never received information. They have also denied two other people that work with me. They are quick to take your money but not give it back!!!"

And this: "They will do anything they can not to pay your claim."

A video making the rounds on You Tube extols the virtues of Unum, and the value a Unum policy represents for policyholders as well as employers. Images of smiling, happy people abound, and employees gush at the quality and effectiveness of the company.

As the backing song suggests, Unum has put on a pair of brand news shoes…but critics suggest they have yet to change their socks.

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