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Could Unum Insurance Be Changing Its Stripes? Think Again…

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Chattanooga, TNUnum insurance has long been accused of browbeating policyholders in need of benefits. Over the years there have been accusations and allegations of systematic claim denials and other unsavory tactics that have resulted in financial hardship for the policyholder, fostering many a Unum lawsuit.

But could Unum Group be turning things around?

The Chattanoogan (1/7/13) reported last month that Unum had handed out $50,000 in “mini-grants” to a group of Hamilton County teachers in Tennessee. Based in Chattanooga, Unum’s goal in distributing the grants was reportedly to help teachers pay for education materials with an aim to further engage students and improve achievement levels. It’s part of a larger initiative dubbed “Strong Schools Grants” to which Unum has attached a financial commitment of $950,000.

As well, Business Wire (1/31/13) reported that Unum - known at one time as Unum Provident - contributed $13 million in global giving throughout its locations in the UK, the US and Ireland last year. That amount represented a combination of contributions by Unum, as well as its employees.

And Linda Nee, a former Unum employee who now blogs about the insurance industry and has established Disability Claims Solutions, Inc. (DCS), an enterprise founded to assist claimants in dealing with their insurance provider, recently gave credit to Unum for allowing an Independent Medical Examination (IME) to be recorded for accuracy, and to be properly memorialized.

“This is good,” Nee wrote enthusiastically (12/28/12). “In fact, it’s very good!” (Original emphasis).

“In 2012 Unum went through several cycles of attempting to deny or scrutinize IME witnesses; limit audio recording to its own resources paid for by the insured; and allowing the audiographer to remain present during the recording,” Nee continued. “Although I doubt the above is a companywide directive for every IME, it should be.”

It appears, with Unum, the euphoria is premature.

Unum remains one of, if not THE leading provider of insurance products globally. Individuals holding a Unum life insurance policy or other product - including Unum disability insurance - do so as a proactive strike against unforeseen disaster. Policies are acquired and premiums paid in good faith each month in order to keep the policy in good standing. In the event of an unforeseen health or medical event - or accident - the policyholder has peace of mind that the benefits outlined in their policy will be paid, and that Unum (known at one time as First Unum) will pay those benefits according to its obligations in the policy.

The reality, it appears, is that in scores of cases Unum makes it extremely difficult for legitimate claimants to collect on those benefits.

On the very day that Unum was being lauded for contributing millions to charitable causes around the globe, insurance advocate Linda Nee was back lambasting the insurance provider. “One thing Unum insureds can always count on is that the company rarely changes for the better. In addition to several other issues that have been brought to our attention, it appears Unum is once again attempting to claim a ‘right’ to approve IME witnesses.”

Nee asserts that within the process of vetting Unum long-term disability insurance claims - or any other claim, for that matter - Unum does not have the right to approve witnesses. “No Unum disability contract gives Unum ‘the right’ to approve, screen, test, deny or restrict any witness chosen by IME insureds. Simply, the ‘the right’ doesn’t exist except for Unum’s arrogance,” Nee writes.

And while recently granting the capacity to have a recorded IME for accuracy in one case, another claim letter brought to Nee’s attention noted that Unum emphatically forbade any recording, either audio or video, of the IME interview.

Nee also makes the point that some Unum claims handlers use negative, accusatory and harassing language in correspondence to individuals undertaking Unum disability insurance claims, in an alleged effort to scare or perhaps even bully the claimant. The well-known insurance industry advocate, who blogs about the industry, notes that Unum now outsources much of its risk management to IME networks and private investigatory agencies. “These physicians are hired guns of the insurance industry and have been refusing to allow witnesses and any type of audio or video recording.

“The overall objective of any insurance company in requesting an IME is to obtain a written assessment report which supports the company’s predetermined business agenda to deny the claim. Insureds and claimants would do well to remember this since an IME is never requested to benefit insureds. Never.”

While there will always be those who attempt to take advantage of an insurance company and claim benefits for which they are not honestly entitled, advocates maintain the vast majority of claimants have legitimate needs and are only attempting, in their Unum disability claims, to gain benefits rightfully theirs and contractually obligated by the insurer to provide, assuming a policy - which is essentially a contract - is in good standing. Claimants who pay their premiums faithfully over many years, only to be browbeaten by Unum Group or any other insurer, would be forgiven to wonder about the wisdom of having insurance in the first place…

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