Unum’s IME Network Evaluations – Violations Of Human Rights?

Most insureds are aware that all Unum’s policies contain provisions forcing insureds to submit to Independent Medical Evaluations when requested. As a result, insurance defense insureds’ evaluations have become a multi-million dollar industry to provide biased medical reports aiding in the production of corporate Robber Baron insurance profitability.

In a previous post, I also spoke about Unum’s trend in hiring “expert” third-party IME mills to perform insurance defense evaluations at the peril of its insureds. Arms length insured evaluation has obviously opened the door to abusive, discriminating and emotionally offensive evaluator tactics resembling what can only be called, “human rights violations.”

This past week I listened in horror to an account of a Unum IME conducted by a psychiatrist for a mental health disability. Throughout the evaluation, the IME evaluator personally demeaned, shamed and badgered an insured already receiving behavioral therapy for depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

The insured’s spouse confided to me that her husband’s head bent further and further to the floor as the psychiatrist consistently badgered with, “Come on…you can go to work can’t you? Why not? Why isn’t your therapist including return to work in your therapy sessions? You can work, and you know it.” At one point, a dog was allowed to enter the room supposedly to see how the insured reacted to animals.

A common definition of “disability harassment” is “the intimidation or abusive behavior toward an individual based on disability that creates a hostile environment by interfering with, or denying a disabled person participation in, or receipt of benefits, services, or opportunities to receive the same goods and services as all others.” (This definition is my own although I’m sure there are others, particularly located in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.)

It has also come to my attention that Unum is now refusing insureds the right to have witnesses present, or to audio record IME evaluations. Without the opportunity of written or audible evidence of the evaluation, Unum’s evaluators feel free to abuse, and actually mistreat those who are forced into medical evaluation by policies that won’t pay without it.

While most reasonable people would agree with the insurance company’s right to obtain an independent review, no one agrees that IME evaluations should be used as opportunities to brow beat insureds into “return to work” submission. Any insured who   endures 60 minutes of shame, degradation, and insult from a forensic psychiatrist deserves not only benefits, but a Purple Heart for combat.

What I find particularly interesting are the newly developing IME facilities consisting of highly credentialed physicians who do nothing but evaluate insureds for the insurance industry. Highly credentialed, these physicians become millionaires by discrediting claimed disabilities for profit, which is an entirely modern definition of “do no harm.”

Although Unum alleges the acquired IME reports are “fair and independent” it’s clear they are NOT. In fact, the word “independent” in the acronym means “the physician has not evaluated the insured before”, and is not intended to suggest that the IME is fair, objective and conducted in good faith and fair dealing. Make no mistake. The purpose of a Unum IME is to obtain documentation that appears to be a credible reason why the insurer is not obligated to pay the claim.

Finally, the fact that a vulnerable, stressed and probably scared insured is allowed to be subjected to inhumane, emotionally charged abuse during an examination, should now be recognized as a violation of an individual’s human rights. All persons,  whether disabled or not, have the right to be treated with respect and dignity, even when there are insurers pulling the puppet strings of IME physicians used for corporate profit.

Now to the insureds who are forced to endure such atrocities…..

If you find yourself in the middle of an abusive IME evaluation you have the right to politely inform the evaluator that you consider his/her tone, attitude, or mannerisms to be degrading and offensive. You can follow that by saying, “I’m here at the request of my insurance company, and I’m happy to answer your questions. But would you please begin to treat me with the dignity I deserve?”

I suspect that most people wouldn’t say this, but just “take it” so to speak. You do have the right to hold any IME evaluator accountable for the manner is which you are treated. IME physicians will generally “behave better” once they are forced into an acceptable accountability you insist upon.

Insureds should also send the insurance company a written assessment of the treatment you received during the IME and ask that it be placed in your file.

There should never be a time when disabled insureds should be forced to endure emotional or physical abuse during an IME. Physicians who are little more than wooden puppets for the insurance industry should be held accountable for their actions and treatment of those they examine. Dignity and respect is for everyone…….

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to give me a call.