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Unum Prospers While Denied Policyholder Freezes

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Kernersville, NCSeveral years ago, an ABC 20/20 investigation into Unum found that policyholders with long-term disability insurance frequently saw their claims denied. Various former and current employees of Unum at the time (2002) alleged that Unum encouraged claim specialists and other employees to works towards closing legitimate files and denying claims—presumably in a bid to increase profits.

Since then, things have been quiet on the Unum front media-wise. But do policyholders still feel shortchanged?

Unum Group, formerly known as Unum Provident and First Unum, is not alone in being wary of insurance claims. There are always people who try to take advantage of the system and pull the wool over their insurance provider's eyes, and all insurance providers must ensure claims are legitimate.

However, the nation's largest provider of insurance appeared to be trying too hard to disprove and deny legitimate claims. Judging from the traffic in online forums, there are those who still feel that way.

Marty, from Kernersville, North Carolina, wrote on behalf of his wife on consumeraffairs.com with regard to her permanent disability, which was verified by her (now former) doctor. Marty wrote that a communications error made by a junior employee in the physician's office prompted Unum to send a representative to oversee a function test.

The test proved extremely difficult for Marty's wife, who battled intense pain and discomfort during the proceeding. A healthy arm went numb and remained so as a result of the test. Nonetheless, Marty and his wife soon received a letter from Unum which declared her fit to work. Needless to say, her claim was denied.

Marty and his wife desperately needed that long-term disability insurance. They have since both lost all health insurance coverage—and thus their medication—and have few resources with which to fight Unum's position, even though Marty's wife has been deemed permanently disabled by a qualified physician.

Meanwhile, their car was repossessed and their heat pump broke down in the middle of the harsh North Carolina winter. A wood stove literally kept them from freezing. Even now, in the warmer months, they have no income and their home is in the midst of foreclosure. "We fear being homeless in a few months," Marty writes.

As for Unum, it was reported in the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the company exceeded financial analyst's first-quarter (Q1) expectations by posting an after-tax operating income, excluding a tax charge related to health care reform legislation, of $223.5 million, or 67 cents per share. That's up from $206.7 million for Q1 in 2009 and slightly ahead of Wall Street estimates.

In spite of challenges in its UK division, strong performance in Unum US and Colonial Life divisions made up for any shortfall. Even though one Unum long-term disability policyholder doesn't know where he and his wife are going to sleep in a couple of months, Unum is building a 1,450-space parking garage at its headquarters in Chattanooga.

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