The pandemic is reshaping the insurance industry, and we expect a number of mergers and acquisitions (and negotiations that take place in the headlines) to continue in the months to come. The latest is a rejection from The Hartford to an offer by giant property and casualty insurer Chubb, rebuffing a $23.24 billion cash-and-stock deal.
The scale on which these companies do business is big: in 2020, The Hartford reported $17.3 billion in total premiums.
Our chief concern, like yours, is what this means for disability claimants, both long-term and short-term disability claimants. It’s never good when these potential consolidations occur. As we have written fairly recently, when insurance companies are acquired, the cost-cutting begins. Legacy disability policies, that is, disability insurance claims that were being paid when the insurance company was purchased, are first in line for cost-cutting.
Claimants may be notified that the company has changed hands, but if an outside or subsidiary company is administering disability claims, they may not learn about the change until they receive a letter that their claim is being terminated, or is under review and further records are requested.
What can you do, if you are on claim with a company that is bought out by another insurance company?
Be prepared for your disability claim to be challenged.
Especially if you have been on claim for a long time, keep track of your appointments and activities outside of the home. It’s normal to drop your guard when you’ve been on claim for an extended period of time, but as long as you are on claim, the possibility of being under surveillance remains.
Continue to see your treating physician on a routine basis. If you don’t go to doctor or therapy appointments, the disability insurance company will use this as a reason to dismiss your claim. If you are not going to the doctor, you’ve given them a reason to question your status.
Check your policy for important dates. There may be a date when your “own occupation” policy transforms into an “any occupation” policy and the insurance company will use that date to challenge your ability to work. If you are on a mental/nervous disability claim, your policy is likely to end after 24 months. You may need to have an IME (Independent Medical Examination) every year or every six months. Diary these dates so you can be prepared.
Stay away from social media. We cannot emphasize this enough. Insurance companies and their investigators are all over social media. If you are on claim, your social media feeds are an open book for insurance companies. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking your posts are private – there is very little real privacy on social media.
Keep a record of any interactions with the insurance company. For phone calls, get the name, title, direct phone number and email of anyone you speak with. Note the date and time of the call and what the call was about. If you cannot do this, ask a trusted friend or relatively to do this for you. If you receive an email, print out a hard copy. If you send an email, print that out also.
Be mindful of where you are if you take calls out of the house. If you use your cell phone for calls to and from the insurance company, be aware that the person calling is hearing background noise and may identify you as being out of the home. If you are sitting on a beach or at a park, it may be used as evidence that you are able to get around enough to return to work. Even if it’s the only trip you make outside of the house every few weeks, it provides an opening for your claim to be challenged.