Fighting with a disability insurance company is like a starving man desperately looking for a piece of bread. The phenomena I’m now calling “The Unum Wars” permeates among insureds and claimants with a vengeance. Most of the calls I’ve had lately report situations where insureds and claimants are endlessly engaging in “fights” with Unum and doing exactly the wrong things. Take it from me, there is absolutely nothing to gained by getting “huffy” with any insurance company – it just makes you look crazy.
First of all, let me begin by saying that the only obligation Unum (and other insurers) have is to pay benefits if claimants meet the provisions in their policies. Paying claims is the only real obligation insurers have toward insureds and claimants. If Unum is paying your claim then what’s there to fight about?
Still, some insureds just won’t give it up and continue to “make Unum pay for what it did to them” earlier in the claim. Let’s face it, Unum engages in a lot of bad faith, but there is a right way and a wrong way to hold the company accountable.
Some insureds actually find good cause to hold Unum accountable if they look hard enough, but go about it in the wrong way. Ranting, and exchanging endless letters back and forth gives insureds a round and round merry-go-ride that goes exactly nowhere. Nothing gets resolved, and the rant goes on and on. It’s a colossal waste of mental energy and claimants shouldn’t do it.
A good example of this is Unum’s new tack of requesting multiple years of tax returns because their “tech snoopers” found old information on the Internet when insureds had businesses prior to disability. Some insureds are holding firm saying, “the allegations are false and I’m not giving up my tax returns!” Unum is responding by saying, “you either give up the tax returns or we’re denying your claim by March 31st.” If I were this claimant, I’d give Unum the tax returns and save my nose to spite my face. Losing benefits to fight a false allegation principle isn’t a wise decision by any account.
Hypothetically, another insured found that Unum renewed her employer group policy with a change in definition without notifying her in advance of the adverse policy change. Although this is a well-known Unum unfair practice, the insured pulled pages from the new policy to support a complaint to a DOI that had nothing to do with the issue or complaint. She also received a letter from Unum stating they had no problem paying her beyond the 24-month change in definition. Lesson number one – if you’re going to fight with an insurance company, make sure you’re right, and use appropriate back-up.
By the way, DCS just fired a new client because it became clear very quickly all she wanted to do was fight with Unum. DCS, Inc. doesn’t fight with insurers, we solve problems. Insureds and claimants without representation need to learn to do the same thing. There are ways to hold insurers accountable by placing points of view in the record, but in a professional and straight forward way.
I can also tell you that as a former claims specialist there were times when my entire team suspected certain client claims should have been classified as mental and nervous just because of the way claimants conducted themselves. Yelling into the phone, hanging up on the claims handler, and writing nasty letters to Tom Watjen (Unum’s CEO), are not good things to do to support claims. Interestingly, I’ve found that most Unum insureds fighting Unum wars are in fact receiving approved benefits. Go figure.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not recommending Unum be let off the hook for engaging in unfair claims practices, abusing its discretionary authority, or misrepresenting contract provisions etc.. But, this post isn’t about Unum, it’s about insureds and claimants who are so darned angry it becomes normal and customary to “try and make Unum pay” for their wrong doing. Let me clue you in here — not going to happen.
Unum’s unfair claims conduct is a much bigger problem than just what is going on with one particular claim. Insureds shouldn’t take on such universal issues. Frankly, in my opinion, Unum Group should be in the US Attorney’s office with a RICO charge. Insureds and claimants aren’t going to fight that fight and win.
Finally, keep in mind insurers’ impressions of insureds and claimants is represented in phone calls and letters. If you eliminate phone calls and correspond only in writing, you can actually calm down and write a response that is reasonable, clear and to your benefit. Ranting and arguing with Unum, or any other insurer, is an exercise in futility and should never be used as a means of letting out frustrations and anger. Instead, SOLVE THE PROBLEM.
Unum as a company engages in unfair claims practices quite often now; and, there probably is a great deal to be angry about. However, the Unum war merry-go-round isn’t a good place to be for those trying to manage health issues and a disability claim. Calm down, identify the problem, and attempt to resolve it.
It’s the only way to go even when it’s obvious your insurer is trying to “pluck all your feathers.” Remember, one claim isn’t going to get Unum any pay back and no insured should risk their benefits for a principle when they’re angry.