Quite a few people are contacting me with questions concerning the current coronavirus outbreak. As you all know, I am not a public health official, nor am I a doctor and cannot give anyone specific advice regarding “what do do.” I probably know as much about the virus as you do, and my husband and I are doing what we feel is best for us. I recommend that everyone else do the same.
However, I am a disability claims expert and I can tell you how the disability insurers operate under national pandemic/disaster situations from personal experience.
Some of you may NOT know that I was one of two Lead Specialists at Unum who managed 9/11 claims after the tragic disaster in New York. Another specialist and I reviewed and managed 9/11 claims for a period of two years, from the time of the tragedy and forward. Even now, I have several clients with disabilities related to 9/11.
At the time of the 9/11 disaster Unum had already sold policies to The Mercantile, Smith Barney, Moran Stanley and many of the other financial institutions housed in the twin towers. Benefits from these institutions made up at least 40% of Unum’s financial reserve and monthly amounts to be paid were considerable.
When the claims came pouring in, I have to say that Unum acted in the best interests of the victims considering that all employment records, Plans, and histories of these companies were destroyed. Unum paid 100% of the claims resulting from 9/11 with little to no paperwork and no investigations.
But, Unum got a great deal of marketing advantage from playing “nice guy” when it came to 9/11 claims. Articles were written about Unum and how gracious the company was paying claims with no investigation to speak of. For the next two years Unum gained in marketing share because of the internal policies that directed claims handlers to pay 9/11 claims.
Today, because we are dealing with a pandemic, and not a disaster, insurance companies will quickly develop “exceptions” to their rules. No insurance company wants to come across as the bad guys in a pandemic.
Insureds will be quarantined and won’t be able to visit their doctor’s offices, which may in fact close. Update paperwork won’t be able to get done because of quarantined staff, or insureds may be too ill to fill out the forms. Customer Service will no doubt be affected as well.
Although the problems of administering claiims will be different than a 9/11 event, most if not all insurers will make “exceptions” to their rules and not add to the problems insureds already have. You can be sure that insurance companies will NOT WANT to stand out as the “disaster demons” in a national crisis. The key will be communication as to what is going on with you and your claim.
Therefore, the good news is that your insurers will not be taking advantage of the situation we’re currently facing to deny claims. In fact, even during the SARS scare and Zika virus outbreaks, insurers were more than willing to work with insureds to ensure continued benefits. All companies want to be the good guys, at least initially.
Problems with late checks, customer service, and facilitating incoming and outgoing paperwork will be characteristic, but that does not mean your claim will be denied. It only means that the insurance companies themselves are having problems dealing with sick employees and quarantines.
HOWEVER, after two years of paying the 9/11 claims Unum senior management finally figured out the cost of paying all of the claims and ordered 9/11 claims be presented at roundtable for the purpose of denying as many as we could. The lesson here is that eventually, insurers decide “enough is enough” and will once again tighten the reins in the claims process.
This message should put all of you at ease. Insurers are more inclined to “make exceptions” during times of national hardship than to become as I said, the “disaster demons” in a crisis.
Insurance companies are smart enough to know they can get a great deal of public marketing mileage by acting the “nice guys” for a period of time. If the history of 9/11 and Unum, SARS, and Zika virus gives us clues as to how insurers will deal with the crisis, rest assured that insureds will finally catch a break.
Even Corporate America can take the high road in a crisis.