Life Insurance Dirty Tricks

Would you believe that insurance companies withheld $1 billion in death benefits from beneficiaries of life insurance policies? If your answer is “No”, think again, according to an advanced story in TODAY about a Consumer Reports article to be published this month.

This finding of insurance company cheating doesn’t surprise us, but the amount is staggering.

Life insurance companies had their own version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when it came to informing beneficiaries of policy benefits when an insured died. If a beneficiary didn’t know about the policy or about the insured’s death, the insurance company wouldn’t tell.

More than that, some companies, even knowing that their insured had died, not only didn’t inform the policy beneficiaries, they continued to charge the policy with premiums they knew couldn’t be paid until the policy ‘s cash reserves were drawn down before canceling the policy.

Now that practice has stopped in those states that called the insurance companies on it. Not only did the companies have to pay a fine, they also had to install systems which would be likely to see to it that beneficiaries were informed and paid when an insured died.

It’s not that insurance companies did not have a resource for learning when a policyholder died. The Master Death List of the Social Security Administration is open to them and they used it willingly to locate annuitants that had died so that they coukld stop paying annuities. But, they didn’t use the same information to notify beneficiaries of policyholder’s death. SHAME ON THEM!

To avoid any of these insurance industry shenanigans, everyone who takes out a life insurance policy should let the beneficiaries know about it. It is not necessary to know the amount, but beneficiaries should know there is a policy, the name of the insurance company and how to reach the company in the event of death.

If you can do it tactfully enough, you might want to mention this life insurance dirty trick to an older friend or relative who might have a policy. This will suggest that they give the necessary policy information to their beneficiaries if they haven’t already done so.

Insurance companies fight tooth and nail to keep from paying benefits.

Let’s not make it easier for them.

I.M.E. Spells Insurance Fraud

t’s time to stop being polite and call it like it really is: ERISA disability claimants’ motives are highly suspect in the eyes of the courts, while insurance company motives are given the greatest leeway.

One has to wonder if this is because the workingman has few, if any lobbyists in Washington while the Capitol reeks with the smell of highly-paid insurance lobbyists who can toss campaign money and other largesse around without rhyme but with plenty of reason.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, once again highlighted the fraud of insurance company hired doctors who “call them like they see ‘em”, i.e., to hold onto their lucrative arrangements with their insurance meal ticket. Their motto: NOBODY IS DISABLED!

What excuse do insurers use to foist this corrupt system on people at the worst time of their lives – your treating doctor may feel sorry for you and shade medical opinion in your favor, so that your disability claim may be approved. Therefore, the insurers say, we have to check your doctor’s opinion with one or more of our doctors.

This seems fair enough, except that the insurance company doctor, although not formally employed by the insurance company, is in many, many instances beholden to the insurer.

To construct the façade of “impartiality”, insurance companies hire doctor “agencies” which hire physicians to do what are facetiously called Independent Medical Examinations, purportedly because the insurance company wants to catch malingerers. These doctor agencies scout out MDs, many of whom do not practice medicine as a vocation, but stick strictly to IME exams. These exams provide most, if not all of their income.

These physicians are paid to be highly skeptical of disability claim and claimants. Most of their exams are based on the written reports of claimants’ doctors, but yet they are supposedly able to determine that a claimant is not in pain or restricted in movement or otherwise afflicted, even though they never see the claimant!

Despite this, many courts still give these insurance-hired and paid IME doctors reports enough weight under ERISA to uphold denial after denial, leaving truly disabled people out in the deep freeze of life. How can this be?

Why does ERISA give insurance companies the right to to stack the deck, simply because these companies say some claimants may be faking it? In reality, the insurance companies are faking it with a sham system of Independent Medical Exams which are not even close to being independent and in most cases are not even real exams.

Yet many courts feel constrained under the law to give inordinate weight to these exam “findings” and thereby dump many needy and deserving policyholders into a sea of desperation without the ability to earn an income for themselves and their families.

If the courts were permitted to truly evaluate these exams through cross-examination or even simple discovery, without being hampered by ERISA, they would find that many of the I.M.E. doctors do not practice anything but ways to find that there is no disability, no matter the medical facts. When the M.D agencies that employ these examining doctors make millions from their insurance exams, would any fair-minded person see them endangering their relationship with insurers by having their doctors call them as they really see them?

Can any one imagine that insurance companies, which make money by paying as few claims as possible, would continue to employ a doctors’ agency or an examining physician who called the shots straight? Such an agency or doctor would find themselves out of the money loop and on the street in one big hurry.

So, why don’t we call this unsavory system, loaded against claimants, what it is – a fraud hiding in sheep’s clothing, aided and abetted by hamstrung courts, which are prevented by ERISA from looking for the truth.

At least then, ERISA disability claimants will really know what they are up against.