Aetna has arranged to sell its group life and disability benefits to The Hartford for $1.45 billion dollars in cash. While group life and disability insurance were a small portion of Aetna’s business (about $2 million in premiums for 2016, compared to The Hartford’s $8.3 million in premiums at the end of the third quarter), this transaction will allow The Hartford the become second largest group life and disability insurer, behind MetLife. The Hartford will also obtain digital assets from Aetna, including absence, claims management, and data analytics systems, as well as a customer portal. And, following the sale, Aetna will offer The Hartford’s group life and disability products through Aetna’s sales force. The Hartford has also agreed to reinsure Aetna’s book of group life and disability insurance, on an indemnity basis.
While an Aetna press release states the two companies will work together to support their mutual customers, and the majority of Aetna’s 1,800 employees who support the acquired business will transfer to The Hartford, there are no details yet on how Aetna’s plans will be administered going forward, including for those already on claim.
The acquisition is expected to close in November 2017.
Aetna, The Hartford Signs Agreement to Acquire Aetna’s U.S. Group Life and Disability Business, Oct. 23, 2017
The Hartford, The Hartford to Acquire Aetna’s U.S. Group Life and Disability Business, Special Presentation Webcast, Oct. 23, 2017
Japsen, Bruce, Aetna To Sell Group Life Business To Hartford for $1.4B, Oct. 23, 2017, 9:04 a.m.
Livingston, Shelby, Aetna to shed its life and disability insurance businesses for $1.5 billion, Modern Healthcare, Oct. 23, 2017
Otto, Nick, The Hartford to acquire Aetna’s life, disability business, Oct. 23, 2017, 2:39 p.m.,
Reuters, Hartford to buy Aetna US life and disability unit for $1.45 billion, CNBC, Oct. 23, 2017, 9:16 a.m.
Reuters, The Hartford to Buy Aetna Group Life, Disability Benefits Business for $1.45 Billion, Insurance Journal, Oct. 23, 2017
In this series, we have been examining spine-related musculoskeletal conditions. In this post, we will be looking at degenerative disc disease.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Definition: Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is the breakdown in the size and cushioning of the intervertebral discs.
Overview: The name of the condition is actually somewhat of a misnomer – it is not actually a “disease”, but rather a condition that is characterized by the degeneration of the intervertebral discs over time. Over time, the pressure and wear of repetitive use can cause discs to lose some of their water content and volume, reducing their ability to cushion and insulate the vertebrae from one another.
Symptoms: The symptoms most commonly associated with DDD are chronic pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the extremities, and reduced flexibility in the spine. Not all people with intervertebral disc degeneration, however, experience pain or other symptoms. This is due to the fact that the degeneration of the discs, by itself, does not bring on the symptoms described above. However, as disc degeneration becomes more severe, it can lead to other conditions that bring on the symptoms people normally associate with DDD (e.g., pain, numbness and tingling, weakness, etc.). Some of the conditions commonly associated with DDD are spinal osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and foraminal stenosis.
Causes: Reduction in the size and cushioning of your discs is part of the normal process of aging, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have shown that almost everyone over the age of 60 has degeneration of their intervertebral discs to some degree. Not all people with disc degeneration have back pain or other symptoms – in fact, individuals with relatively mild disc degeneration may experience no symptoms whatsoever.
However, age is not the only factor in DDD. Deterioration of the intervertebral discs can be accelerated and exacerbated by other factors. The culprit in many severe cases of DDD is stress-related damage in the form of repetitive use, trauma, injury, poor posture, poor movement, and obesity. Among these, one of the most common factors is repetitive use. For example, the repetitive, static posture of a dentist during clinical procedures creates (1) compressive forces on the cervical discs due to neck flexion, and (2) compressive forces on the lumbar discs due to axial loading. When these compressive forces are applied year after year on a daily basis, the result can be an accelerated deterioration of the intervertebral discs.
Diagnosis: Diagnosis will generally begin with a physical exam in which the physician will perform a variety of tests to evaluate the patient’s strength and range of motion. If the physical tests indicate DDD, an MRI is typically ordered to measure the disc space and check for cartilage erosion.
Treatment: Because DDD can cause such a broad range of symptoms and subsequent conditions, the treatment options vary widely. Depending on the circumstances, treatment can range from conservative options such as physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications to surgical intervention in the form of a discectomy, laminectomy, laminoplasty, or spinal fusion.
Our next and final post in this series will discuss myelopathy.
These posts are for informative purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with and diagnosis by a medical professional. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described below and have yet to consult with a doctor, do not use this resource to self-diagnose. Please contact your doctor immediately and schedule an appointment to be evaluated for your symptoms.
 Degenerative Disc Disease, Arthritis Foundation, http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/degenerative-disc-disease/
1. Spine-health, https://www.spine-health.com/.
2. Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/.
3. The Neurological Institute of New York,
4. John Hopkins Medicine, http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/.
5. WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/.
SEAK, Inc.’s 14th Annual Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference will be held on October 21 -22, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The conference is intended for physicians looking to explore careers outside the clinical setting.
Many doctors and dentists find themselves unable to practice, whether due to a disability, fatigue, burnout, loss of opportunity, wanting more control over their schedule, hope of financial gain, or just the desire to try a different career path or become an entrepreneur. The 375+ attendees at the conference will range from interns and residents to veteran physicians in their 70s. The conference aims to show physicians that switching to a non-clinical career is an opportunity with financial potential, and “is in fact a step forward, not a step backwards.” Attendees at the conference will network, meet with employers and recruiters, attend workshops and presentations and participate in one-on-one mentoring with physicians who have successfully made the transition to non-clinical careers. Several of the presenters have not only moved out of the clinical practice, but are also experienced life coaches dedicated to guiding other physicians into new careers. Sessions discuss opportunities for physicians with insurance companies, medical device companies, the pharmaceutical industry, contract research organizations, healthcare IT and medical informatics companies, and in education as well as in the consulting, medical administration, patient safety/quality, medical writing, and entrepreneurial fields.
Returning speakers include Gretchen M. Bosack, MD, who has transitioned to the Chief Medical Director of the Securian Financial Group and is also an accomplished public speaker; Rishi Anand, MD, who transitioned to the director of the Electrophysiology Laboratory at Holy Cross Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, as well as serving as a medical legal consultant and expert witness, and a successful real estate investor; and Savi Chadha, MD, MPH, a medical science liaison with Tardis Medical Consultancy. The opening speaker, Philippa Kennealy, MD, MPH, CPCC, PCC, is president of The Entrepreneurial MD and the Physician Odyssey Program, where she helps physicians further their non-clinical careers.
Ed Comitz was recently asked to speak at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law by Greenberg Traurig partner and leading sports agent, Dana Hooper, to address the key issues that professional athletes and their agents may encounter when dealing with disability insurance. Topics included the types of insurance coverage most often purchased by professional athletes, the tactics insurance companies use to deny athlete’s claims, and the importance of an attorney and/or agent’s role in the disability insurance context. The seminar also discussed the pros and cons of loss of value coverage for college athletes expected to go pro, and examined some of the challenges faced by injured athletes seeking to prove that a pre-draft injury caused them to fall in draft order and miss out on securing an upper-tier contract.
Mr. Comitz has represented high-earning professionals for nearly 25 years on the toughest insurance cases. As a result, he is intimately familiar with the disability insurance industry, and uses this knowledge to assist athletes from the “big four” sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL) seeking to negotiate favorable contracts with the premier, high-dollar insurance companies. He also advises professional athletes regarding the types of provisions to avoid in disability policies, the significance of the questions asked on disability insurance applications, and the importance of carefully reviewing insurance applications to ensure that they are accurate and do not provide the insurance company with any basis for voiding the policy, should a claim need to be filed later on down the road. When athletes are approaching free agency and intend to test the market, Mr. Comitz helps the athletes assess whether they need to purchase insurance to protect anticipated future income, should they suffer a serious injury before they are able to secure a contract with a new team. He also assists athletes with the legal issues that arise when an athlete is out for a few games, or an entire season, due to health concerns, and represents star athletes who have suffered a career-ending injuries and need to collect permanent disability benefits.
In previous posts we’ve talked about mental health limitation provisions. In this post, we are going to discuss a similar type of provision: subjective symptom limitation provisions.
What are Subjective Symptom Conditions?
Insurance companies typically invoke these types of provisions when a claimant describes a disability or condition based upon self-reported symptoms, without producing objective medical evidence to back up the reported symptoms. This can occur in situations where there is no standard accepted medical test to confirm a diagnosis, or when tests do not return any confirming or conclusive results, or when a claimant has not properly developed his or her medical records and/or simply neglected to have objective testing done.
We most often see these types of limitations in ERISA policies, but they are becoming more and more common in individual policies. An example from an actual policy defines subjective symptoms as follows:
Some examples of conditions an insurance company might contend are encompassed by this provision include:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Sleep Apnea
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Myofascial Pain Syndrome
- Lyme Disease
- Orthopedic Conditions
- Temporal Lobe Phenomenon
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Osteopathic and Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Generalized Pain
- Epstein-Barr Syndrome
- Valley Fever
Insurers also use these limitation provisions to argue that other conditions should be limited, even when there is some objective evidence. For example, a dentist suffering from a musculoskeletal condition might report to his or her doctor that he or she is experiencing neck pain, or lower back pain. The doctor might order an MRI, which might show that the dentist has some issues in his or her cervical or lumbar spine, but even with the MRI imaging, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the precise cause of the symptoms that are being reported. Insurers know this and target these types of claims because, under a broad reading of the policy provision, they involve subjective reports of pain and the physical source of the pain cannot always be conclusively verified using tests.
Why is this provision important to know about?
These limitations typically cap benefits that will be paid out, generally at 12 to 24 months. After this mark has been reached, no additional benefits will be issued even if your symptoms continue and you cannot return to work. In other words, a policy you thought would last for the maximum benefit period can end up being good for as little as a year.
Insurance companies want to avoid paying out claims and often construct policies in a manner that allows them to restrict or deny coverage. This can include hiding limitations at the end of a policy or in a vaguely worded provision. It is not enough to simply look at a policy’s schedule page, because a limitation provision may actually be much broader limitation than you might think when you read “mental/nervous limitation” in your policy summary. Subjective condition limitation provisions are often combined with mental health and substance abuse limitation provisions, so it is easy for a policy holder to skip over this sort of provision when scanning through his or her policy, assuming that it only applies to mental health disorders or alcohol/addiction issues.
When invoking these limitations, the insurance company is not denying that a claimant has an illness or even that it prevents a policyholder from working. Rather, the insurance company is seeking to take advantage of the limits of medical science and/or lack of agreement in the medical community regarding finding and establishing guidelines regarding conditions like the examples listed above. They then use the subjective condition provision to cast doubt on a claim and complicate the claim procedure. Often, they will use multiple in-house physicians to contradict a claimant’s own physician and medical records.
Fighting an insurance company’s decision to classify a condition as subject to this provision can be a costly and long process, and can turn into an expensive war of attrition that can often end in litigation. For these reasons, these types of claims must be handled with care from the start and require the assistance of a supportive doctor to properly document and treat the condition.
When purchasing a policy, it is important to watch out for subjective symptom condition limitation provisions. Always be sure to read your policy or potential policy carefully so that you understand the scope of the your protection.