Earlier this year, Cynthia Koons and John Tozzi published a startling article that included statistics such as:
- 47,000 Americans died by suicide.
You have had or are considering explant surgery. We understand the physical and emotional pains that made you decide on the procedure. We also understand that thinking about insurance coverage should be the farthest thing from your mind.
We have spoken with so many women about their troubles getting insurance coverage for these explants, that we thought it may help to put together some ideas, facts and resources that may resolve at least one part of these ordeals.
National Suicide Prevention Week (“NSPW”) is September 8th-14th this year. Each year, the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (“AFSP”), hosts NSPW. One focus of NSPW this year is: Creating A Safety Net.This blog is a little bit about how I created a Safety Net for myself, and why you need one, too.
Why Do You and I Need A Safety Net?
Each of us lives a life in which our experience of living may bring along some challenges. I venture that most would agree that life is not a linear or static journey -neither in a practical or emotional sense. Personally, I have found that this great sweep of things we call “Life,” although a wonderful journey, it has not been one of predictability. While I have enjoyed years of stability and joy, years of happiness, years of feeling inspired, I have also faced years of hard-times, loss, defeat and great suffering.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., was enacted to provide minimum standards for voluntarily established plans by employers in the private industry for the benefit of their employees. Despite its name, ERISA also applies to disability benefits an employee may be entitled to if s/he becomes unable to work due to a disability, whether or not it was work-related.
Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits, in contrast, is a federal government program, and is available to most people, with certain exceptions, who have worked in any industry and contributed to the Social Security trust fund via the FICA tax.
Most ERISA plans encourage, or even require, that an employee seeking long term disability (“LTD”) benefits also apply for SSDI because any amount paid by Social Security is an offset for the insurance company, making its payments substantially less. However, being awarded SSDI benefits does not mean that the claimant will also qualify for LTD benefits because insurance companies are not bound by the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”) determinations. Similarly, of course, the decision denying SSDI does not mean that the claimant will not qualify for LTD benefits under an ERISA plan. But, an ERISA plan administrator is likely to use a SSDI denial as evidence that a claimant does not meet the ERISA plan’s definition of disability.
The correct response is, “maybe, or maybe not, depending on the facts, and the state in which you reside.”
Insurance policies very often have time limits on the submission of a claim for benefits. In some states, those deadlines are VERY strictly construed, and once the deadline has passed, it does become “too late” to make a claim.
However, more than half of the states apply some form of an insurance rule called the “notice prejudice” doctrine. Simply put, even if an insurance policy imposes a time limit for the submission of the claim, if certain rules are met, a claim can be submitted after the time limit if the late notice does not “prejudice” the insurance company’s ability to investigate the claim. However, that is just a basic summary of the rule. In the states that apply some form of the notice prejudice doctrine, its application differs from state to state. In some states, the insured making the late claim must demonstrate a “good reason” for making a late claim. In others, the burden falls on the insured to prove that no prejudice would be suffered by the insurance company because of the late claim submission.
Suicide is a Leading Cause of Death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, in 2017:
On August 16, 2019 a nationwide class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against the medical device manufacturer Allergan to protect women with Allergan’s textured breast implants from the increased risk of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), which has now been associated with Allergan’s BIOCELL textured breast implants. The case is Jane Doe I, et al. v. Allergan, Inc., et al., No. 2:19-cv-16784 (D.N.J.).
In July, The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested that Allergan issue a recall of its BIOCELL textured breast implants and tissue expanders, and Allergan agreed and is removing these products from the global market.
The FDA requested that Allergan recall all of its BIOCELL textured breast implants and tissue expanders based on newly submitted Medical Device Reports (MDRs) reporting worldwide cases of BIA-ALCL and BIA-ALCL-related deaths associated with these implants. The FDA’s “analysis was attributed to a new worldwide reported total of 573 unique BIA-ALCL cases including 33 patient deaths. Of the 573 cases of BIA-ALCL, 481 are reported to have Allergan breast implants at the time of diagnosis. In addition, 12 of 13 deaths occurring in patients with BIA-ALCL where the manufacturer was known occurred in patients implanted with an Allergan breast implant at the time of their BIA-ALCL diagnosis. The manufacturer and/or texture is unknown for the remaining 20 reported deaths from BIA-ALCL.”
Today the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (“AFSP”), responded to the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Report on the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act to the U.S. Congress with this statement by John Madigan, AFSP Senior Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer:
“We applaud the FCC, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and Veterans Affairs (VA) for their work to analyze the effectiveness and the feasibility of a 3-digit hotline number. We agree with the initial conclusion of the FCC’s Report to Congress: that a universal, easy-to-remember, 3-digit phone number will make it easier to connect people in crisis with life-saving resources. AFSP is calling on the relevant congressional oversight committees of the Congress to continue their due diligence on this critical issue and immediately schedule a hearing to address the FCC’s recommendation to designate “988” as a new 3-digit number as there are significant questions and concerns which should be addressed, namely: Network Limitations – The North American Numbering Council’s Report to the FCC recognized that “988 likely cannot be deployed ubiquitously across all networks” in the United States and the FCC conceded that network upgrades and technology replacements will be necessary to “ultimately [make] the use of 988 as a designated suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline ubiquitous” nationally.
The AFSP noted that, “It’s essential that a mental health and suicide prevention crisis number be nationally available for all individuals in crisis,” and they asked, “How will these gaps in national coverage be addressed so access is available regardless of geographic location?”
Elizabeth Hopkins and Michelle Roberts, Kantor & Kantor Partners, recently obtained a favorable decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, concluding that a widow could hold her deceased husband’s employer accountable for its actions in preventing her from obtaining the life insurance under her husband’s ERISA-covered benefit plan.
Specifically, although the employer, National Counseling Group (NCG), collected premiums for the life insurance coverage from the husband until the time of his death, it never told him that when he began to work part-time, he became ineligible under the plan but could convert his coverage to an individual policy. After he died, NCG told his widow not to pursue her claim against the insurance company because it was going to pay her the full benefits, even though it later refused to do so. Despite these misdeeds, the trial judge dismissed the case after concluding that NCG owed no fiduciary duty to either the decedent or his widow.
Kantor & Kantor attorneys, who are ERISA litigation specialists, took over the case for the appeal. They argued that the trial judge’s ruling was wrong because NCG was named as a fiduciary and plan administrator in the governing documents and, as such, NCG was required to give accurate and complete information to both the decedent and to his widow.
Many people submit short term disability and long term disability claims on their own, without consulting or engaging an attorney to assist them. We think you should consider hiring an attorney to assist you in this endeavor. Ensuring that you have all of the necessary information to get your claim approved with the first submission can be a daunting task. You are already not feeling well because you are disabled. Moreover, you do not know the ins and outs of the disability insurance world and we attorneys do.
There are several nuances to this process. Disability attorneys know what documents to help you gather including not only your medical records but additional evidence in support of your claim such as independent medical evaluations, functional capacity evaluations and other medical exams. We also know how to help you get the necessary vocational evidence to support your claim that you can no longer perform the duties of your own occupation.
If you submit your claim on your own and it is denied, you will have to submit an administrative appeal in order to preserve your right to benefits. You will likely come to us at this point and we will advise you on what was missing from your initial claim that resulted in the denial. If you hire an attorney at the initial claim stage, while it is not a guarantee that benefits will be approved, if they are approved, it is certainly a time saver for you.