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Commissioners Back UnumProvident Settlement

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A Chattanooga, Tenn., disability insurer says it has won broad approval for agreements designed to resolve disability claim disputes.[@@]

The insurer, UnumProvident Corp., announced in November that it had agreed to pay $15 million in fines and spend $112 million to reassess as many as 215,000 old long-term disability insurance claims and improve benefits for many past and current claimants.

Regulators from Maine, Massachusetts, Tennessee and the U.S. Department of Labor had approved a proposed multistate settlement agreement, and New York regulators had approved a second, similar agreement. UnumProvident said it would start to implement the agreements once two-thirds of the insurance regulators in the remaining states and other state-like jurisdiction, such as the District of Columbia, approved the agreements.

Several law firms that represent disability insurance policyholders, such as Bourhis & Wolfson, San Francisco, have campaigned for regulators to reject the proposed agreements. Critics of the proposals say they put too much of the burden for making a case on the claimants and require claimants to sign away their rights to collect punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

But Diane Koken, the Pennsylvania insurance commissioner and president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., said she would approve the agreements, and UnumProvident says enough state regulators have signed appropriate documents for it to put the settlement agreements into effect.

“We’re moving ahead with implementation,” says UnumProvident spokeswoman M.C. Guenther.

A list of the jurisdictions that have approved the settlement agreements was not available at press time.