Insurance Companies Are Looking For You | Video Transcript
[GRAPHIC: Gets answers]
ROBIN ROBERTS: We have all heard stories of people…
[GRAPHIC: Gets answers]
ROBIN ROBERTS: Who fake injuries in order to collect…
[GRAPHIC: GMA gets answers]
ROBIN ROBERTS: The lucrative insurance benefits and how insurance companies catch them in the act by using video surveillance. But critics say, sometimes insurance companies go way too far. Many people complain that their insurance company wrongfully cut off their benefits on the basis of seemingly harmless video. Our chief law and justice correspondent, Chris Cuomo, has — you’ve been getting some answers for us again, Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO: We did. You know, we did a story about this, Robin. And it turned out to be not just one person who complained about surveillance video. We wound up hearing from you all across the country. And the story was eerily similar. You file a disability claim, you get it approved and the next thing you know you’re being followed. And there are more people out there than you might think who say this practice goes too far.
You’re watching hidden camera video of disabled people who have one thing in common: they were all spied on by their insurance company. We heard from them after we aired a story about Rocky Whitten.
[GRAPHIC: Rocky Whitten]
CHRIS CUOMO: Rocky, who has a broken neck, had been receiving disability benefits from The Hartford. Then, a private investigator hired by that company videotaped him getting into a van, reading a magazine and dipping a taco chip into salsa. The Hartford then cut off his benefits, using that surveillance tape, in part, as evidence he could return to work.
LEIGH WHITTEN: I mean, they found the least little thing that makes no sense.
CHRIS CUOMO: Rocky’s benefits were ultimately reinstated. But after our story aired, we heard from dozens of people who said that what happened to Rocky happened to them. People like Eric Newbar [phonetic] who has a traumatic brain injury. His benefits were cut off, in part, for doing his laundry and going to a deli for lunch. And Paul Hamil [phonetic], who has degenerative disk disease. His benefits were cut off, in part, for picking up his 2-year-old granddaughter. Their doctors say they’re disabled, but The Hartford says all these people could perform sedentary work. Susan Pisano works for the insurance industry’s lobby group.
We did a story about a guy who has someone spy on him while he is dipping a taco chip, nitpicking, absurdities. It’s not right.
SUSAN PISANO: Claims can be appeared.
CHRIS CUOMO: To the insurance company that denied the claim. They don’t appeal it to me. They don’t appeal it to some arbitrator. To the company, right?
SUSAN PISANO: And ultimately it can go to court.
CHRIS CUOMO: And that’s exactly what Evan Werner and others are doing, suing The Hartford for unfairly terminating their benefits.
[GRAPHIC: Evan Werner]
CHRIS CUOMO: Nineteen years ago, Werner, a hospital technician severely injured his back in a car accident.
[GRAPHIC: Damaged car]
CHRIS CUOMO: His doctors said he couldn’t return to work. But a few years ago, a private investigator hired by The Hartford began staking him out. After four unsuccessful attempts to videotape Werner outside his home, the investigator staked out his doctor’s office and taped him going to his appointment, leaving an Office Depot and walking his shiatsu.
EVAN WERNER: Why were these people setting up surveillance on me? You know, I’m not a criminal. I didn’t do anything wrong.
CHRIS CUOMO: Nine different doctors said Werner was disabled and could not work. But a few months after the surveillance, Werner received a letter from The Hartford stating his disability benefits were terminated because this surveillance tape…
[GRAPHIC: The Hartford documents]
CHRIS CUOMO: Along with other evidence showed he was capable of performing full-time sedentary work.
EVAN WERNER: Not only am I still disabled, and that’s not going to change, but they’ve destroyed me financially.
CHRIS CUOMO: Werner’s lawyer says The Hartford’s tactics are unfair.
MINDY CHMIELARZ: Planning a surveillance and setting up your investigator in the doctor’s office parking lot is dirty pool.
CHRIS CUOMO: But Pisano says, regardless of the complaints, the track record for disability carriers speaks for itself.
SUSAN PISANO: Ninety-five percent of claims go through pretty easily.
CHRIS CUOMO: Now if I were to give you all the information that we have about the different cases, what would you do with it? Because I can give it to you.
SUSAN PISANO: Well I don’t think that it would be appropriate for me to be the person who’s deciding what to do with it.
CHRIS CUOMO: Why, you’re the trade group?
SUSAN PISANO: Trade associations are not regulators.
CHRIS CUOMO: So by definition, what you do is put the best face on the industry that you can?
SUSAN PISANO: What we do is we tell our community’s story.
[GRAPHIC: The Hartford]
CHRIS CUOMO: We, of course, asked The Hartford for an interview, but they refused.
[GRAPHIC: The Hartford statement]
CHRIS CUOMO: Instead sending us this statement saying, “surveillance is not used as a standalone reason for a claim decision,” and that the company cuts off claimants following surveillance less than 2 percent of the time. But that’s not much solace to people like Werner and the others, who say they unfairly lost their benefits after being secretly taped.
EVAN WERNER: You know, they want to save money, great, get it from somewhere else but don’t take it away from people who are legitimately disabled.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Chris, I know you said you heard from a lot of people. So what can you do to help?
CHRIS CUOMO: Well, we couldn’t get anything done with The Hartford themselves. They didn’t want to talk to us about the lawsuit. They don’t want to talk to us about their practices. But this time we were able to get to the consumer advocate in Florida who looks at insurance and he’ll do something he has never done before.
ROBIN ROBERTS: What’s that?
CHRIS CUOMO: They’re investigating The Hartford for these practices. And if they, to their satisfaction, believe these practices are wrong, there could be some very big fines involved.
ROBIN ROBERTS: All right, Chris, thanks. Cuomo on the case. That’s what we’re calling it.
CHRIS CUOMO: Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am.
ROBIN ROBERTS: All right, thanks so much, Chris. Always good to see you. And if you have a case for Chris, tell us at our website at ABCNews.com. I’m not kidding you, it’s called Cuomo on the case.