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Dateline NBC Airs Allegations Against UnumProvident

Oct 13, 2002 | NEWSChannel9.COM

Nearly two weeks ago, UnumProvident made a pre-emptive strike saying a national news program may air a story attacking the company, and the way it handles claims.

The Chattanooga and Portland, Maine-based insurer says it doesn't scheme to deny disability claims. Well tonight, Dateline NBC shared its findings with the country.

UnumProvident handles 400,000 new disability claims every year. And, the vice president says of last year's claims, the company only found 2% of claimants not to be disabled. But, according to former employees interviewed in tonight's Dateline NBC story, UnumProvident tries to find reasons to reject claims.

Dateline says Dr. Fergo McSherry used to be on UnumProvident's payroll. He says the world's largest insurer encouraged him and nearly a hundred other doctors to find reasons to deny disability claims. When he didn't go with the flow, McSherry says his boss scolded him.

"You know, I was just going to have to do more of what the claims people wanted me to do. That was to make it easy for them to deny the claim," alleges Dr. McSherry.

McSherry says for awhile he followed his boss' orders. And, when he stopped the doctor claims he was fired.

"They hurt people everyday," says McSherry.

"They didn't just take the money away from me, but, they took a sense of dignity away from me," says Rosemary Wright.

The Dateline report told her story as well. Wright suffers from a progressive, genetic, fatal form of emphysema. She says UnumProvident paid her benefits for two years and then cut her off. Wright sent the insurer letters from two lung specialists saying she's completely disabled from her condition. But, a UnumProvident doctor, who never examined her, said her claim was without merit.

Wright says after she filed a lawsuit, UnumProvident reversed its decision, paid her back benefits and resumed her coverage.

UnumProvident Vice President Tom White said in an interview with NewsChannel 9 last week he doesn't deny that mistakes have been made in the past when handling claims. But, there is no conspiracy to rip off customers.

"Our company manages over 400,000 disability claims a year. To take one or two or three and to try to build a theme around that, we think is absolutely wrong," says White.

UnumProvident faxed NewsChannel 9 this response to the Dateline story. Here it is in its entirety.

"We were aware over the past few weeks that Dateline NBC had been preparing a story on our company. We cooperated with their representatives with the intent to provide a balanced portrayal of the services we provide to our 25 million policyholders.

Although not unexpected, they chose to air two extreme situations for which we share a sense of regret for their outcome. However, they are not representative of our deep commitment to our business and our customers.

We strongly disagree with the statements and conclusions made in the Dateline story.

UnumProvident has earned a significant leadership position in the disability insurance market as a result of our consistent record in paying claims to policyholders."

A UnumProvident spokesperson will sit down with NewsChannel 9 for an interview tomorrow. So, stay tuned to NewsChannel 9 for the latest on this developing story.

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