Hope For Disabling Pain Sufferers

Wouldn’t it be great for disability claimants to have a reliable test to show the level of pain they are suffering? If you have an ERISA claim based on pain and are dealing with an insurance carrier with the usual insurer attitude toward disability claims, it would be the greatest of boons. Such a test would go a long way towards overcoming the dread “no objective evidence” mantra typically used by carriers to deny chronic pain claims.

Most insurance companies treat all but the most obvious disability claims with a heavy dose of “salt”. Denying a claim is almost a “knee-jerk” reaction, especially a claim which is based upon “pain” which has no objectively established physical component to support it.

There are a multitude of conditions which generate pain, some of which may not be readily apparent on an X-ray, MRI or EMG. That doesn’t make the pain any less disabling. But, you can bet that a claim based on pain, the cause of which is not clearly apparent on an X-ray or MRI, will likely draw a rejection from an insurance carrier.

Now there is hope. A recent study done at the University of Colorado Boulder found unique neurological signatures for pain in brain scans caused by heat. The brain “signatures” seemed similar in a variety of study participants. A great deal more work is to be done before any scientifically premised conclusions can be drawn. But the study seemed to confirm, with 90 to 100% accuracy, the degree of pain a participant was feeling in response to a measured level of heat being applied.

Should this research lead to an accurate, objective pain measurement, it will be an earth shaker for disability insurance companies. No longer will they be able automatically to turn down legitimate claims because they are based solely on the claimant’s “subjective” report of pain. With a scientific and reliable measure of pain, insurers will have to deal with the reality of such a disability.

Such a measuring tool will also help insurance companies detect true malingerers with a degree of certainty which will write “finis” to their spurious claims. We also welcome this improvement in claims administration.

While we wait for science to catch up on this issue, thousands more legitimate claims will be denied because there is no “objective” way to prove pain.

Hopefully, the end to the uncertainty of subjective pain complaints is in sight.