Be nice to your neighbors, or else

Most insureds are also not aware insurance companies can go knocking on their neighbors’ doors to obtain information about day-to-day activities. This is officially referred to as an “activities check” and can be quite disconcerting when “disability activities” are shared with neighbors. If a neighbor has an axe to grind with an insured, this is the time when it becomes apparent…

And this is one of the reasons I don’t use a cell phone…

Stores Track Your Movements, and an FTC Case Shows How

The FTC alleges that while Nomi promised that people could opt out of being tracked — but by not telling anyone they were spying on them, they gave no way for consumers to stop the surveillance…

Nomi collected data from nine million mobile devices in just the first nine months of 2013, the FTC said, tracking movement both inside and outside stores, the type of device used, dates and times and even the phone’s signal strength. Collecting all that information, the company would tell its clients about when customers would walk by without going in, how long they stayed in the store when they did go in, and whether they went to other locations of the same chain…

The settlement doesn’t punish Nomi. The company is simply forbidden from misrepresenting what options consumers have when it comes to how the information is being collected and used.

Who else buys this type of information?  Maybe the DEA?  Insurance companies?

Is your medical condition a target for insurance companies?

In 2002 Unum’s management decided they had paid long enough on 9/11 victim claims and began “target projects” to review all victim claims and deny as many as possible. I know this because I was charged with exactly that objective.

Those who were injured or affected by the 9/11 tragedy were typically Wall Street Analysts, Morgan Stanley and Mercantile employees with extremely high benefit amounts. Unum’s “target” strategy was to compel claims handlers to “present” all claims at roundtable so that management could decide not only which claims were to be denied, but when. Most mental and nervous 9/11 claims were denied at that time…

Top ten of most frequently targeted disability claims are: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Pain, Lyme Disease, failed Cervical or Back Surgeries, HIV/AIDS, early Multiple Sclerosis, Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD and Migraines. This list is not exclusive to Unum but I find many other insurers are reluctant to pay for certain claims. Secondary non-compensable impairments include Sjogren’s, TMJ, concussion syndrome, connective tissue disease, and POTS.

Improvements in pharmaceutical treatments for HIV have also encouraged Unum’s medical reviewers to allege HIV/AIDS infected insureds can return to work despite a long list of continued symptoms not alleviated by medications that improve T-cell counts. Therefore, over the last several years there is some indication that Unum, like the 9/11 victims, is conducting projects to eliminate as many HIV claims as possible…

Brainy quotes by Stella Young (Australian comedian)

I do not identify as a person with a disability. I’m a disabled person. And I’ll be a monkey’s disabled uncle if I’m going to apologise for that.

My parents didn’t know what to do with me, so they just pretended I was normal, and that worked out quite well for me.

Too often, we fall into the trap of thinking ‘equal’ means ‘the same’ and that we achieve equality by treating everyone identically.

As a wheelchair user, I am utterly obsessed with toilets, and all my friends know it. A simple invitation to the pub is consistently followed by, ‘Do you know if they have an accessible toilet?’

I really love filling out forms – quite fortuitous, really, given that as one of Australia’s 4 million-ish disabled people, ticking boxes and recording my life for other people is what I’ve spent a fair chunk of my time doing.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that from puberty onwards, the female body is disgusting and unruly and must be tamed, trimmed and tinted to within an inch of its life before it can be allowed to roam freely in the public eye.

I am not a snowflake. I am not a sweet, infantilising symbol of fragility and life. I am a strong, fierce, flawed adult woman. I plan to remain that way, in life and in death.

Throughout her career Young called for the achievements of disabled people to be valued, but insisted her disability – she was born with Osteogenesis imperfecta – did not automatically make her exceptional.  “Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does,” she said in a TEDx talk in April…

“A feminist, an atheist and an activist with her own one-woman show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival – Stella was afraid of nothing and believed she could do anything,” they said.

Unum – The History of Roundtables

Interestingly, attendees at roundtables included all of Unum’s “business interests” in making sure claims were terminated including, in-house physicians, vocational reps, RNs, impairment managers and consultants, claims specialists and of course Unum attorneys. Unum counsel often attended roundtables causing the meeting to be “client privileged” which is why records and documentation of roundtables was rarely found in claim file copies…

Functional Capacity Evaluations

Functional Capacities Evaluations (FCE) have the potential of causing further injury because of the lifting, kneeling, stooping, and stress test aspects it includes. In fact, the purpose of a FCE is to measure functional capacity and physical endurance. It is for this reason that most Physical Therapy facilities that perform FCEs require written prescriptions from physicians before they administer evaluations…

Ritual, Not Science, Keeps the Annual Physical Alive

Vega is one of more than 44 million Americans who is taking part in a medical ritual: visiting the doctor for an annual physical exam. But there’s little evidence that those visits actually do any good for healthy adults…

Hey, Unum, are these annual physicals part of your definition of “Regular Care”?

But the evidence is not on their side. “I would argue that we should move forward with the elimination of the annual physical,” says Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a primary care physician and a professor of health policy at Harvard Medical School. Mehrotra says patients should really only go to the doctor if something is wrong, or if it’s time to have an important preventive test like a colonoscopy…

From what I’ve read, there’s no evidence that having an annual colonoscopy is beneficial, either.

The Society for General Internal Medicine even put annual physicals on a list of things doctors should avoid for healthy adults.

Perhaps included in that definition should be patients with chronic conditions for which the medical industry has no solution for.  I’m not sick, I’m disabled, and since doctors can’t help me, what’s the purpose of seeing one, except to throw away more money?

One problem, Mehrotra says, is the cost. Each visit usually costs insurers just $150, but that adds up fast. “We estimate that it’s about $10 billion a year, which is more than how much we spend as a society on breast cancer care,” Mehrotra says. “It’s all a lot of money.”  And then there’s the risk that a doctor will run a test and find a problem that’s not actually there. It’s called a false positive, and it can lead to a cascade of follow-up tests that can be expensive and could even cause real harm. 

Just like many of the treatments for pain that are expensive, and in the end, just cause more harm.

Maine Attorney General’s office staffed by Unum

Assistant Attorney General, Maine

Previous:  UNUM LIfe Insurance Company of America

PORTLAND, ME (February 12, 2009)- Steve Rowe, Maine’s Attorney General for the past eight years, has joined Verrill Dana, LLP…  Before entering government, Rowe worked in both the legal and business departments of UNUM….

Join Maine Attorney General Janet Mills as she discusses the challenges in law enforcement and public advocacy in tough economic times.

Unum, Cooperating Sponsor

After beginning his legal career in the Cumberland County District Attorney’s office, Chris worked for UNUM for a period of time and spent the 6 years prior to joining the firm with the Maine Attorney General’s Office…

Dale Denno…  Officer in 3 Fortune 500 corporations, including 16 years as a VP at UNUM… Assistant Attorney General in the Maine Office of the Attorney General…

Bernard Gaines has served on the board of trustees for Southern Maine Medical Center, and now Southern Maine Health Care (SMHC), since 2001. He has served as chairman of the board of trustees at SMMC/SMHC since 2011. He has also served previously on the MaineHealth board…  Gaines is a retired executive from Unum.

Meet My First Underground Drug Dealer

When I mention to a New Mexican that I’m from Texas, many ask why I moved here. When I say the reason was marijuana or medical cannabis, the responses I get range from slightly curious to maybe a little giggle and a knowing grin.  (New Mexicans don’t think weed is that big of a deal, unlike in Texas.)

That’s how I met my first underground drug dealer in New Mexico, when I mentioned I was in the Medical Cannabis Program and the difficulties I was having finding quality medicine for an affordable price.  Of course, my first drug dealers in New Mexico were actually the legal dispensaries, as anyone who sells drugs is a drug dealer, legal or not.  My long-term drug dealers in Texas were doctors and Walgreens.

After I had performed my due diligence on my new treatment option; after six months in this state’s program; after I had figured out how to collect and analyze the information to assess the new treatment and my progress; after my money situation began to look rather concerning — after all this, I was feeling quite frantic.  My experiment was not turning out as I had hoped, and it was apparent at that point that I could not afford to be a member of the Medical Cannabis Program in New Mexico.  I could not believe that after all my research and hard work in moving to another state, I was faced with failure.

So, the next time my neighbor happened to mention his connections, I thought, well, I need to at least experiment with the alternatives.  Even though my long-term plan is to move to Colorado, I am going to be stuck in this beautiful state for quite some time.  I can think about suicide or I can think about alternative ways to purchase my preferred treatment for pain.

My neighbor — my first underground drug dealer in New Mexico — was in his early twenties.  He moved on many months ago, which is why I feel free to mention him now.  For the purposes of this story, let’s call him Dean.

Dean said he was a veteran, dishonorably discharged, but he said a lot of things that turned out to be untrue.  But he also said he suffered from drug addiction, which I believe was true.  Once in conversation, he mentioned he was having difficulty accessing methadone maintenance treatment, but he didn’t say why.

Dean had four different jobs at call centers in the time that I knew him (one of the few jobs available in this state), which was less than a year.  And Dean had an anger problem, which was periodically on display in my front yard, when he and his girlfriend would fight, or when he yelled at his dog.  (Ironically, he was one of only a few dog owners who pick up after their pet.) But Dean was always nice to me, and I was always nice to him (and his dog).  (His girlfriend usually didn’t give me the time of day, so I didn’t have to be nice to her, the snob.)

One irritating habit that Dean had was knocking on my door and asking to bum a cigarette.  He didn’t really smoke that much, but I noticed when he was a little manic, a cigarette was one of the ways he self-medicated.  The first handful of times, I said, sure, and gave him a couple at a time. One day he woke me up from a nap with this request, and I said sure, for 25 cents.  He knocked on my door one more time for a cigarette, but he only had 15 cents.  At least he was trying, so I said sure.  After that, he didn’t try to bum a cigarette again.

Eventually, Dean and I agreed to… let’s call them exchanges.  Dean didn’t sell drugs, he just had connections.  He was just a middleman.  The middleman usually doesn’t make much money in these deals, if any, but he gets to enjoy free samples, maintaining his habit for very little expense.

We started small, and the first exchange wasn’t bad. But I got ripped off the second time — that exchange was definitely uneven.  The next few times were good, which I can describe as including both quality and affordability.  At that point, the underground won the price battle against the legal dispensaries — by quite a wide margin.  Not that I stopped trying to make the legal program work for me.  You know, until I ran out of money.

The next and last time Dean I made an exchange, the rip off was quite apparent.  And I let him know about it.  He wasn’t happy and stormed out, later pounding on my door a few times.  After that, we never spoke again.  He moved out a few months later.

This was last year, months before my renewal was due, and months before my car needed a major repair.  And months before Unum would terminate my long term disability insurance benefits.  Maybe I thought I would leave some of my bad luck in Texas, but it appears I brought it with me.  I sure hope none of it rubbed off on Dean.

Before now, I’ve been very careful not to mention my activities in the underground whenever I post things on the internet.  It could be used against me by Unum, and who knows, maybe even Social Security.  But Unum can use anything against me, like the fact that I’m still breathing, or heck, maybe even that I’m Irish.  Another reason to keep quiet is for the safety of those who help out pain patients like me.  And of course, the police could be knocking on my door tomorrow… although why they would care is beyond me.

But I know how many pain patients are struggling in this state and all across this country.  I’ve read many comments from people my age who don’t know how to access the underground, even though that’s the only way to find medical cannabis in their state.  Not that I have the answers — just experiences.

Also, I want pain patients to understand that if you’re going to move to another state for medical cannabis, there are many problems that will arise — problems that may be unexpected. And for pain patients who are switching from prescription drugs to medical cannabis, you need to be aware of the costs involved.  Compared to Oxy and Vicodin, marijuana is not cheap.

I don’t know if this story and all the information I post will help others, but that’s what I’m hoping for.  And if the police don’t come and get me for trying to stay alive through constant pain, I’ll try to continue the stories of my underground drug dealers in the hope that it will help a pain patient, somewhere, navigate access to cannabis… maybe even in Texas.

Sanctions and the human rights prohibition on torture

A sanction means that benefits are stopped, thus denying claimants the means of survival, a sentence no court in the land would ever dish out and yet benefit claimants are subject to such sanctions without trial or representation…

Is suffering from constant pain considered torture?  Is it considered torture to deny pain patients the options for treatments that work?  Is the DEA torturing pain patients by closing clinics and restricting the supply of certain drugs?  Do insurance companies torture patients by refusing to cover or limiting certain medications?  Does the healthcare system torture people who can’t afford it and/or go bankrupt because of it?

Do the state and federal governments torture their citizens when they refuse to legalize medical cannabis?  Is being put in jail for marijuana considered torture?  Is having cancer but not having access to cannabis considered torture?

Is it considered torture to put those who suffer from addiction in jail?

Is the drug war a torture program?

5 Things You Should Know About Chronic Pain

It means that chronic pain often needs to be treated as the primary problem, which is different than the conventional medical approach of identifying and treating the underlying problem causing the pain…

This is very important, but it’s not only doctors and the medical industry that need to treat chronic pain as the primary problem — insurance companies, including Medicare and the VA, need to cover all of the treatments that support this fact.

17 People Who Were Fired For Using Facebook

Virgin Airlines crew members were fired after publicly discussing the atmosphere of their job on Facebook. They shared the number of times that certain airplane engines had been replaced and that the cabins were infested with cockroaches. It was certainly terrifying.

If I did a lot of flying, after reading this, I might have nightmares about cockroaches… Do you know how big the roaches are in Texas?  Forget it, you don’t want to know.

Nathalie Blanchard had been living off of disability insurance for depression since 2008. But when Manulife, the Canadian insurance company making the payments, got into her Facebook page, they saw her “relaxing at the beach, hanging out at a Chippendale’s-style club, and generally having a lot of fun.” She immediately lost her insurance benefits.

Death by capability assessment (and Unum)

(Great billboard! :))

Extremely disturbing news has reached Vox Political, courtesy of Liza Van Zyl on Facebook. Extremely long-term readers may recall Liza was the lady who received a visit from police who claimed she had committed a criminal act against the Department for Work and Pensions, just before midnight on October 26, 2012 – being that she had been highlighting the deaths of sick and disabled people following reassessment by Atos and the DWP for Employment and Support Allowance…

(Hilarious cartoon! :D)

The Work Capability Assessment serves a twofold purpose: It shovels taxpayers’ money into the hands of private, profit-making firms, and in return those firms do their best to disqualify claimants from receiving payments…

We know that the Work Capability Assessment has been a catastrophe for people all over the UK. It is based on a system evolved by criminal US insurance firm Unum, designed to be hugely difficult and stressful. The stress of having to prepare for an assessment kills many, as does that of taking it. Some commit suicide when they are refused benefit, some die from the stress of having to appeal. Some who are granted the benefit die from its requirements – like trying to become ready for work in a year if they’re in the work-related activity group of ESA. Some who are granted benefit die from the strain of being reassessed, sometimes at short notice. Death surrounds the process…

Vox Political has spent nearly two years trying to get the DWP to divulge up-to-date figures on the number of deaths suffered by people going through the claim process that involves the WCA. The last published data – from November 2011 – showed around four deaths every three hours, or 220 per week. That’s a monstrous figure..

Disability denial factories


American firm known as UNUM PROVIDENT (US) are one of the biggest occupational health insurance companies in the world. They have been involved with the DWP since 1994.

In 2002/03 an American class action lawsuit in California identified UNUM PROVIDENT (US) as running “disability denial factories” and the Judge fined them $31.7 million. The company were ordered to re-investigate 300,000 other refused claims; something the company has still failed to complete 7 years later.(as of 2011)

In 2005 American Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi declared: “Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that for years has operated in an illegal fashion.”

UNUM PROVIDENT (UK), now known simply as UNUM Insurance, fund psychosocial disability research at CardiffUniversity…