Ask UNUM FAQ: Atos, WCA, CardiffU and Biopsychosocial Model

Frequently Asked Questions – Ask UNUM  – includes answers re: Atos, WCA, CardiffU, biopsychosocial model and criticism. You can find them on Twitter as @AskUnum.

UNUM is professional in getting corps to sign up to their “Biopsychosocial Model” of Sickness. The flipside of Benefits practices. £££££ off the back of ESA – one big con.

I’ve seen some negative reviews on Unum online. Are these from authentic or recent Unum customers?

Like most companies, we  are active  on the internet and our position as a leading provider of Income Protection perhaps gives us more exposure to negative comments than some.

Some websites that appear in a simple search for Unum have been developed by lawyers who have represented claimants and are attempting to elicit new business – it’s important to bear this in mind when reviewing the information on these sites.

AskUnum is a blog and forum that has been developed to engage with a wide audience and answer questions in an open and honest manner to de-mystify Income Protection.  Over the coming weeks,  look out for further interesting material explaining what Income Protection is, what it isn’t, how it has helped others, and so on.  If you would like to ask a question about Unum or Income Protection, you can do so here.

Is it true that Unum is banned from operating in many US states?

The allegation that Unum is banned from operating in some US states is false.

Tell us about your past and current relationship with ATOS

Unum UK currently has no relationship with ATOS Ltd. Until September 2009, it provided Income Protection to ATOS Ltd for ATOS’s staff.

How much involvement did Unum have in the drafting of the Work Capability Assessment (if any)?

Unum attended the first meeting with the DWP to feed into the assessment criteria for incapacity benefit. The system design was managed by other organisations and Unum had no involvement or visibility of this.

Has Unum ever won any awards for its rehabilitation work?

In the last five years, Unum and its employees have won, been highly commended, or been shortlisted for seven Rehabilitation First Awards. Unum’s rehabilitation case managers help employers actively manage sickness absence issues and can help employers improve their bottom line by working with them to minimise long-term sickness absence rates.

What was Unum’s involvement with Cardiff University?

In 2003, we were approached by Peter Halligan at Cardiff University to sponsor its Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research. We accepted this invitation with the aim of furthering knowledge and understanding of the psychosocial, economic and cultural factors that influence health, illness, recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. We were not involved in any research that was carried out and the sponsorship ended in June 2009.

As a result, a series of papers was published, identifying the range of factors that determine why some people become long term absentees. It also helped us to understand the biopsychosocial model which has informed our approach to medical underwriting.

Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, former Chief Medical Adviser, Medical Director and Chief Scientist to the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions was appointed by Cardiff University as Director of the Centre.  The Centre retained independence over this appointment.

At the same time, Unum and other insurance companies were called upon by Government as part of the welfare reform consultation.  During this period, our only association with Professor Sir Mansel Aylward was in the capacity of the Centre and in no way influenced the consultation.

I’ve heard that Unum use the biopsychosocial model. What does this mean and how do Unum use it?

In 1977, psychiatrist George L Engel first introduced the biopsychosocial model, or BPS. This theory was first used practically by psychologist Erik Erikson.

The idea is that the impact of an illness on a person isn’t just a result of the purely medical elements. Physical (e.g. disease, joint damage), psychological (e.g. disposition, anxiety) and social factors (e.g. work demands, family support) also play an important role. In simple terms, this means that physical, mental and social factors can all influence the ways in which people respond differently to the same disease. This can mean that two people can have the same medical symptoms, but one recovers and one doesn’t – because of their different circumstances and mindsets.

This is clearly relevant for Unum, where on the one hand we do medical underwriting as part of the insurance application process, and on the other we provide an extensive, market-leading rehabilitation service to help people get back to normality.

In medical underwriting it’s important to help predict which people are likely to become long term sick. It also shapes our approach to rehabilitation for a particular person – identifying the barriers which may prevent them from making a successful return to work following an illness, and helping them overcome those barriers.

Incorporating BPS principles was first trialled by Unum in 2006 in medical underwriting, after three years of close analysis of our claims experience. The insurance application form that includes BPS is a little longer than it used to be, and concentrates on attitudes and behaviours that give us information about how likely illness or injury would be to cause long-term sickness for someone. On the other hand, this means that much less medical evidence is needed these days to support the application. Customers can then, in most cases, get their cover in place in a few days rather than having to wait several weeks for reports to come in.  If customers prefer, we will collect the information needed from the applicant by telephone or even, where appropriate, in their workplace.

By asking more extensive questions on the application, such as sickness records and attitudes to healthy living, we can assess the risk in the round, taking account of both medical and all other surrounding factors. We are then often able to insure those that other insurers see as ‘uninsurable’. In addition, we’re able to consider providing cover for people who may have had potentially serious illnesses such as cancer, back pain or have had a heart attack before they applied for insurance.



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