Nearly a year ago I phoned Met Life for one of my clients and reached a gentleman who could barely speak English. “That’s odd”, I thought, and asked him where he was calling from. “India”, he told me in broken English, “I’m in India. Can I help you?”
Recently, rumors Unum Group is considered sending American jobs off-shore circulated with a corresponding downgrade of the quality of claims review coming across my desk. Although not confirmed, it does cause one to wonder if Unum jobs are catching the boat headed for India, the Philippines, or Thailand.
Yesterday, I attempted to contact AON Hewitt, a third-party leave/disability Administrator for Amazon.com, and was told by the person I spoke to that, “we’re not in the United States.” When questioned further I was also told that the rep was not allowed to tell me exactly where he was. Clearly, he wasn’t in the United States either.
Over the years when I’ve tried to solve various problems (particularly with virus protection software), I was also transferred to off-shore customer service reps, most of whom I had to guess what they were telling me. My response was always the same, “is there someone I can speak to in the United States?” And, in most instances there was.
Insurance claims reps make anywhere from $30,000-$60,000 per year. Insurers such as Unum Life (UnumProvident and now Unum Group) have systematically downgraded benefits to a bare minimum with employee contributions to keep costs down. The tendency is to maintain younger, and therefore healthier, employees also to cut the increasing labor costs of health insurance.
But, insurance costs are not always about employees; the increasing costs of utilities, new facility acquisitions, and debt often causes management to look to other means of financing, namely denying more and more claims.
I have no doubt but that insurance is only one of many industries that are finding it difficult to make reasonable profits. Here in Maine, Sears (bought out by K-Mart) has all but disappeared from Malls and retail locations. Textile mills, shoe manufacturers, rural sewing factories have also disappeared from the Maine countryside at the same time graduates from the University of Southern Maine have transitioned south to Boston and Hartford in an effort to find suitable employment.
So far, it appears to me that most insurers who have opted for offshore labor have only transitioned Customer Service and other clerical jobs. As a veteran of the claims process and insurance industry it does bother me that policies sold under the regulation of state authorities in the United States may not be managed in the United States. Wouldn’t you be concerned if someone from India who isn’t very proficient in English were making YOUR claims decision?
Finally, and I hesitate to bring this up particularly right before an election, but we have people in the United States who are looking for jobs, particularly our veterans. While some politicians support unlimited immigration, our industrial complex is sending jobs offshore in order to make more profit. Does this even make sense?
Unum used to be a major employer in the states where it maintained facilities – Portland, ME, Chattanooga, TN. Worcester, MA, and Glendale, CA. Sending jobs overseas clearly will affect these areas economically particularly on Unum “bonus day” when thousands of Unum employees spend approximately $2,000.
I can’t say that I’m very pleased that the insurance industry either has, or is considering sending claims management jobs offshore. Individuals who favor globalization, particularly those receiving disability benefits, may in fact get what they get even if it is a denial letter scripted from Bombay.