Unum Reaps Windfall as Entitled Workers’ Job Fears Decrease Disability Claims

Bloomberg’s Businessweek reports that fewer workers are filing disability claims during this down economy, fearing their jobs won’t be available when they are able to return to work. See “Ailing Workers ‘Gut It Out’ on Job, Opt Against Disability.”
Although this trend appears to mainly affect workers with “lower back pain, nervous conditions and ‘more discretionary’ claims,” it’s unclear how many employees might be seriously injuring their long-term health by remaining on the job. Disability insurance typically pays only 60 percent of an employee’s salary.

One thing IS clear, however: This is really good news for disability insurers. For example, Unum has posted increased profits for five straight quarters, boosted its dividend and approved a $500 million share repurchase program.
“You can’t make a windfall on these products,” Unum Group Chief Executive Officer Thomas Watjen told Businesweek. “It’s not like you can go on claim and make an enormous amount of money.”
In one sentence, Mr. Watjen confirms the argument we make every day for our clients suffering from disabling conditions: If they weren’t sick, they’d be at work. It pays better. That is something we’ll be sure to remind Mr. Watjen’s representatives each time they make a policyholder fight for his or her benefits.

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