Georgia insurance officials fined UnumProvident Corp., the nation’s largest disability insurer, $1 million after investigating complaints about claims handling.
Glenn Allen, spokesman for Georgia’s insurance commissioner, said Wednesday that the fine is the largest the agency has ever levied against a company.
Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine said in a statement that the department’s investigation showed Chattanooga-based UnumProvident had a corporate mentality of “looking for every technical legal way to avoid paying a claim.”
In addition to the fine, the state is putting on probation for two years four UnumProvident subsidiaries: Unum Life Insurance Co. of America, the Paul Revere Life Insurance Co., Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co. and Provident Life and Casualty Co.
UnumProvident spokesman Tom White issued a statement describing the penalty as “an agreement with the Georgia Department of Insurance relating to that state’s ongoing market conduct examination.”
“Commissioner John Oxendine and his team were very helpful in identifying areas in which we can better serve the citizens of Georgia,” said Ralph Mohney, the company’s senior vice president of Return to Work Services-Development.
The company, which claims about 30 percent of the nation’s disability insurance business, has said it processes 400,000 claims annually, distributing $3.6 billion in the process, and that the vast majority of policyholders are pleased with their treatment. The company insures about 25 million people.
Tennessee insurance officials who have said they are investigating complaints about UnumProvident could not be reached immediately for comment.
Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed by policyholders who contend the company routinely denies claims and requires its medical employees to support the denials. In January, a California jury awarded $31.7 million to an eye surgeon who accused UnumProvident of cutting off his benefits as part of a management scheme to boost profits.
In February, UnumProvident announced it had recorded investment losses of $93 million and was responding to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation for information relating to its investment disclosures. Since then some shareholders have gone to court claiming the insurer made misleading statements and improperly denied some claims to artificially inflate its stock price.
About 3,500 people work for UnumProvident in Portland, Maine, where the former Unum Corp. was founded. UnumProvident was created by the 1999 merger of the Unum Corp. and The Provident Companies, based in Chattanooga, where there are about 3,000 workers.
The company’s statement said the Georgia investigation “covered a time immediately prior to and following the 1999 merger of Unum Corporation and Provident Companies, Inc.”
“When companies merge, disruptions in service can sometimes occur,” Mohney said.