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  5. Friday 5th May 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    Benefits claimants are put at risk by the continued use of a Fortune 500 racketeers’ discredited assessment model, writes MO STEWART

    ALMOST 10 years after BBC News reported on the influence of Unum Insurance on the government’s welfare reforms, chronically ill and disabled people whose financial survival is dependent upon statefunded finance have paid a very high price for the influence of this US corporate giant with successive British governments since 1992.

    “A multinational insurance company accused of racketeering and cheating thousands of Americans out of welfare benefits is giving advice to the British government on welfare reform. A BBC investigation has found that executives from Unum have held meetings with senior Whitehall officials to discuss changes to the benefit system.”

    The above quote was the introduction by BBC News anchor Hew Edwards for an exclusive BBC News report, transmitted on November 6 2007.

    Fortunately, some very wise researchers and activists downloaded the transcript of the report as, within a few short days, both the transcript and the BBC News video were inexplicably removed from the BBC News archives.

    Quite whose authority was used to rapidly remove this BBC News investigation remains a mystery. Presumably, the New Labour government didn’t want reference to Unum Insurance and its many court cases to be permanently available, or the multi-million dollar fines it paid out in the US for refusing to honour the company’s Income Protection Insurance policies.

    In reality, Unum Insurance worked with the British government from 1992, and was appointed as official government advisers for “welfare claims management” from 1994, to guide the then Conservative John Major government to eventually replace the welfare state with healthcare insurance policies.

    This official guidance was despite the fact that Unum Insurance was regularly exposed for its resistance to funding insurance payments to as many genuine claimants as possible, and there was a parliamentary debate in 1999 which exposed the preventable harm the US corporate giant created for claimants.

    During the BBC News report, presenter Mark Daly advised that: “US-based multinational insurance giant Unum has shown a keen interest in UK welfare reform since the mid-1990s…

    “Unum are the world’s largest disability insurers, with more than 25 million customers in the US alone. But in 2002, a series of whistleblowers came forward with damning allegations. Linda Nee was a claims handler for UnumProvident, as it was called then.”

    Nee exposed her experiences when working for Unum and is quoted as saying: “I was often placed in a position by a consultant, who was my supervisor, of denying a claim, of telling me to deny a claim, or having a manager tell me to remove documentation from a claim so that an attorney would not have the opportunity to see it.”

    Daly advised: “It was alleged that Unum cheats tens of thousands of disabled Americans out of their rightful insurance claims,” and he interviewed several claimants who had all challenged the Unum decision in court and had been awarded substantial damages.

    Unsurprisingly, less than 12 months following the BBC broadcast, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stopped the out-ofwork disability funding known as Incapacity Benefit and replaced it with the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in October 2008.

    Introduced by New Labour, to access the ESA sick and disabled, people who were unfit to work were required to endure the new Work Capability Assessment (WCA), as conducted by unaccountable corporate giants, using a “functional assessment” that disregards diagnosis and prognosis and is a replica of the totally discredited moderated biopsychosocial (BPS) model used by Unum Insurance to resist funding insurance claims.

    Almost 10 years since the ESA was introduced, the DWP-commissioned research used to justify the use of the BPS model for the WCA has been totally discredited by academic excellence.

    Coroners have identified a link between the WCA and suicides, the DWP has refused to publish updated ESA mortality totals and Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, the academic architect of the discredited and dangerous BPS assessment model used for the WCA, admitted as long ago as 2012 that it was “unsatisfactory.”

    Yet the DWP continues to use the WCA to resist funding welfare benefit to as many as possible, regardless of the human and often fatal consequences.

    Mo Stewart is an independent researcher and retired healthcare professional. Her book Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state was published in 2016 by New Generation Publishing.



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