The Doctor’s Corner: 3 Exciting New Developments

Several new advances in treatment and testing have provided hope to the sufferers of several different medical conditions who are all too familiar with disability insurance. We often discuss conditions such as chronic back pain, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other conditions that routinely leave patients unable to perform the material and substantial duties of their occupation. Fortunately, every day we get more and better treatments to relieve these debilitating conditions. As research continues and makes advances, some people who were previously permanently totally disabled may be able to find relief and recovery. As we’ve done in the past, today’s post is going to focus on some advances that are particularly relevant to claimants receiving disability benefits.

Surprising research on the effectiveness of steroid shots for lower back pain: Currently, epidural steroid injections are one of the most common non-surgical treatment for lower back pain. However, new analysis by researchers at John Back painHopkins has shown that these steroid injections may be unnecessary. Their analysis shows that injections of saline and local anesthetic (such as Lidocaine) into the space around the spinal cord are as effective in relieving pain as steroid injections. Steroid injections have become increasingly controversial due to the debate between the usefulness of the treatment weighed against the side effects caused by these powerful chemicals. The side effects of an epidural steroid injection include raising blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, slowing wound healing, and an exacerbation of bone disease in older women. In addition, the number of steroid shots a patient may receive per year is limited, and there is always a risk of contamination leading to diseases such as fungal meningitis. While researchers admit that a larger study is needed before recommending that patients stop receiving epidural steroid injections, this is a good step towards reducing the side effects and risks of treatment of lower back pain.

New success in blocking the progression of Type 1 Diabetes: Using a drug originally marketed to treat psoriasis, researchers have been able to effectively block the progression of type 1 diabetes. A multi-center study has shown that patients receiving injections of the drug Alefacept were producing the same amount of insulin one year later as opposed to the placebo group, which saw their insulin production drop as is expected in cases of type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes cannot be reversed or cured with current treatment, and the long-term complications include stroke, circulatory problems in extremities, heart disease, and visual impairments. This experimental treatment was also well-tolerated by the group, experiencing no serious adverse events during the study. The results of this study lend to the efficacy of the drug protocol, which will lead to larger population studies and possibly a new and better weapon in the arsenal against diabetes.

Dietary supplement may be able to reverse Alzheimer’s disease: In a small but intriguing study, researchers have been able to reverse the brain deterioration in Alzheimer’s patients using an extract consisting of aloe vera and several other key nutrients. The extract had few side effects and improved cognitive function in 46% of the patients, including several who were able to drastically reverse the symptoms of the disease. After 9 months of receiving the aloe verasupplement, nearly half of the patients scored significantly higher on a cognitive examination, saw improved immune function, and averaged a 377% increase in stem cell production. This study examined patients across the spectrum of Alzheimer’s, from the severely impaired to those who had been recently diagnosed with the disease. Researchers hope that this study will lead to a larger-scale test that will enable a new treatment protocol for this horrible disease.

Although these treatments provide hope for claimants suffering from these conditions, they are still far from being considered appropriate care for the conditions by the insurance companies. Until these treatments and others like it are vetted further and become approved and accepted by the medical community, it’s important for claimants to continue the courses of treatment recommended by the attending physicians. As time goes on, we will continue to find cures for previously incurable conditions and help many of the affected return to their jobs and live normal lives again. Until then, it’s important to protect your rights and make sure you receive the disability benefits you deserve while you can’t work.

If you have any questions about your disability claim, or would like more information, please visit our website to sign up for a free consultation or call us toll-free at (855) 828-4100.

The Doctor’s Corner: 5 Recent Medical Study Developments

There have been several studies released in the past few months that offer promises for better understanding and treatment of several different chronic conditions. Today’s post is going to review some of these advances and how they may affect those with these chronic conditions and how they may impact disability claims.

  • Study Shows Antibiotics May Relieve Chronic Lower Back Pain:  This new study shows that 4 in 10 chronic back pain cases may be caused by bacteria and that 80% of these cases may be successfully treated with antibiotics. antibioticIn this double-blind Danish study, patents were treated with either a placebo or antibiotic regiment 3 times a day for 100 days and then re-evaluated. The placebo group showed no noticeable improvement while patients who received the antibiotics were better able to function after one year with less lower back pain, less leg pain, and fewer days off work due to the condition. These new treatment avenues could help some people who suffer from chronic back pain regain more independence and return to more normal activities.
  • Los Angeles Doctor Develops New Fibromyalgia Test:  Individuals who suffer from Fibromyalgia know the frustration and extended time it often takes to reach a conclusive diagnosis of their condition. A new test developed by Dr. Bruce Gillis in Santa Monica, California is the first blood test able to recognize two blood markers for Fibromyalgia that can be found in the immune system. The test measured the levels of two specific proteins produced by white blood cells: chemokines and cytokines. Patients who suffer from Fibromyalgia also lack the production of these two specialized proteins. This test may be able to offer more definitive evidence, or their holy grail of objective proof, for the insurance company claim examiners and consulting doctors who are dubious and skeptical about any and every disability claim involving Fibromyalgia.
  • Long-Term Intake Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Greatly Reduce Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis:  This is a Swedish study of 32,000 women over a 10-year period. In the study, people who ate certain types of fatty fish at least once per week developed rheumatoid arthritis at only half the rate of women who at little or no fish. The researchers behind the study say that the Omega-3 fatty acids present in these fish have an anti-inflammatory effect on the immune system.  Since rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks joints, the anti-inflammatory effects mitigates the body’s inflammation, reducing the pain and cartilage damage caused by arthritis.
  • Study Shows Genetic Relationships Between 5 Major Psychiatric Disorders:  The largest genome-wide study ever conducted on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has demonstrated that genetic relationships exist among these conditions. The study’s findings show that many of these disorders may be far more connected than manygenome people consider today. The results show that the genetic overlaps are most significant between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They’re moderate between bipolar disorder and depression, schizophrenia and depression, and depression and ADHD. The lowest correlation of any significance was found between schizophrenia and autism. These correlations will help researchers find new protocols to treat behavioral patterns as opposed to specific conditions, allowing for more precise and patient-specific treatment therapies.
  • New treatment offers relief for Colitis and Chrohn’s disease:  Two studies show that the same treatment may provide relief for sufferers of both Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. These trials took place with nearly 2,000 patients in 34 countries and monitored them for one year of treatment with the intravenous antibody medication, Vedolizumab. This drug works by inhibiting the immune system from releasing cytokines, the same protein coincidentally used as a marker in the new Fibromyalgia test above. The inflammation caused by this protein causes many of the uncomfortable symptoms brought on by these diseases. Not only did the drug work to prevent the symptoms of the conditions but even better more often resulted in remissions. These studies also showed that patients were able to stop using some commonly prescribed drugs and therapies to treat Colitis and Chrohn’s, helping avoid their significant and common side effects such as weight gain, nausea, and headaches. This new treatment gives sufferers the opportunity to regain more of their lives without having to deal with the residual effects of the disease along with the side effects of prescriptions that can prevent claimants from being able to return to work.

As medical research progresses, more sufferers of chronic diseases are able regain their lives and reduce their risks of becoming or remaining permanently disabled. New advances are made every day, and new studies continue to find links that help understand the reasons and factors underlying – and treatments for – many chronic conditions, giving patients and doctors new directions in finding different and more effective treatment protocols for conditions which can be terribly debilitating.

If you are suffering from a chronic condition and need help with your disability insurance claim, please call our firm at (855) 828-4100 or visit our website to sign up for a free consultation.

Cigna’s Market Settlement Causes Re-Evaluation of Many Denied Disability Claims

Cigna has agreed to a wide-ranging re-evaluation of its disability claim denials from 2008, 2009, and 2010 in California and from 2009 and 2010 in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

The settlement affects certain long term disability claims in all of Cigna’s units – Life Insurance Company of North America, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, and Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company.

After multiple complaints to the insurance commissioners in these states, regulators found that Cigna ignored Social Security decisions, discounted the findings of independent physicians, and didn’t consider workers’ compensation records when evaluating claims.  These practices forced Cigna to set aside $77 million for payments to current and past claimants who were improperly denied their disability benefits as well as to pay fines to the states.  In addition, the settlement requires Cigna to:

  • Establish a remediation program in which the companies’ enhanced claim procedures will be applied to certain previously denied or adversely terminated claims for residents of California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, or Pennsylvania.
  • Enhance claim procedures to improve the claims handling process to benefit current and future policyholders.
  • Participate in a 24 month monitoring program conducted by the insurance departments of each state, involving random sampling and on-going consultations.
  • Undergo a re-examination upon completion of the monitoring period.
  • Pay fines and administrative fees totaling $1.7 million.

“This regulatory action is intended to provide long-awaited relief for consumers who have a right to expect that their carrier will make good on contractual promises.  As regulators, we hold carriers accountable for adhering to laws and regulations of each state in which they conduct business.  This settlement resulted from market conduct exams and encompassed issues of serious concern.  It is a solid example of regulatory cooperation in protecting the policyholders of Connecticut and other jurisdictions.” said Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi.

For the official press release from the California Department of Insurance, click here.

For a copy of the Maine market conduct examination, click here.

The full regulatory settlement can be found here.

Although not quite the magnitude of UNUM’s market conduct settlement a few years ago, Cigna’s agreement can have a great impact on those claimants who were improperly denied their disability benefits.

If you think you may be eligible to have Cigna’s denial of your long term disability claim reviewed or have any questions about this settlement, please feel free to contact our offices toll-free at (855) 828-4100 or visit our website to sign up for a free consultation.

 

New Advances in Chronic Pain Treatment

If you are living with chronic pain, you know the stress and suffering that results. Chronic pain research continues and treatments still have a long way to go. However, researchers have made some significant gains in understanding and treating chronic pain in recent years, resulting in a new classes of drugs and treatments to help alleviate pain. Today, I am going to discuss some new therapies to explore how you may be able to reduce your pain and improve your life.   Continue reading

Another Success Story!

Every once in a while, we like to feature a story from one of our clients about their personal experiences with the disability claim process. Today’s story is an especially touching one. We spent a lot of time with working with Robert and his wife, and he ended up getting the disability benefits he deserved. The nature of his disability and the circumstances of his claim presented some unique hurdles that we had to work together to overcome, but we were able to provide the level of service he needed to satisfy the demands of his claims examiner and move on with his life. Here’s his story, in his own words:

My consultant, Fred Gosman, really helped with my disability claim! After I suffered a broken ankle, I found myself no longer able to work when the injury took a turn for the worse and turned into Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. This is when I decided to file for disability benefits. Being an insurance agent, I thought I’d be able to easily complete the claim forms.  But after attempting it alone, I realized the enormity of my situation and decided to find help.  

I hired a claim consultant who promised lots of help, but instead she became abrasive and overbearing, angering my doctors and not helping my claim.  I had to quickly terminate that relationship and start over.  Once I found Royal Claims Advocates, my experience completely changed.  Fred helped me and my wife from the beginning, making sure I understood what was needed and helping gather all of the information.  He helped make sure my claim forms reflected my situation and worked with my doctors (They loved him!) to ensure they understood what was needed by Reassure America for my claim. 

He has helped make sure Reassure America was treating me fairly.  They asked for lots of records that didn’t apply to me or my claim, but he helped us correct their misunderstandings and provide the information they really needed. 

I’ve struggled through some rough parts of my disability, and Fred was flexible when I needed it.  Everything he’s done helped us move closer to filing my claim with support and documentation. His knowledge of disability insurance and claims helped my claim go smoothly.

Once we submitted my claim, my benefits were approved and paid within weeks, far quicker than I imagined.  Fred and his team at Royal Claims stayed with me to support and guide us through this challenging time.  Their help really has been invaluable to me and my wife.  As a former insurance agent, I appreciate the depth of their knowledge and the quality of their work.  It’s allowed me to focus on my recovery instead of fighting the insurance company for my benefits! 

– Robert S., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Thank you Robert for your kind words!  Stories like these are the purpose we created our firm and the reason we fight so hard to ensure our clients get the disability benefits they deserve.

We’ve helped many others receive their benefits as well. If you or someone you know is in need of help on their disability claim, please contact us. You may call us toll-free at (855) 828-4100 or visit our website to sign up for a free consultation.

Court Watch: Cases Affecting ERISA and Disability Claims

Although we’re not lawyers or a law firm, paying attention to recent court cases and rulings helps us keep up with the constantly changing rules and regulations of disability insurance claims. In the recent past, we’ve seen two cases taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court as well as a few other cases that affect the way the disability insurance companies treat insureds and their claims and the options to be considered by claimants. These court rulings set precedents and rules for many future claims and help form the disability claims process almost as much as claims examiners or company policies.  Today’s blog post is going to explore a few of the more relevant cases and their effects on disability claims.   Continue reading

Happy Holidays From All Of Us!

From all of us at Royal Claims Advocates to you and your loved ones, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!  This blog normally provides you with advice and tips on filing a successful disability claim, but today we’re going to take a break from the normal claims grind – and explain why you should too. Continue reading

Around the Nation: News and Insight From Across the DI World

In the past few weeks, there have been some interesting news articles that either impact the landscape of the disability insurance industry or affect how disability benefits may be awarded in the future.  As a disability claim consultancy firm, we accept our challenging responsibility to stay current on industry news and realize that many don’t have the time or ability to keep up with the volume or focus of information.  There are developments in many different fields that can have a direct impact on disability insurance and individual claims, from new medical research to job programs to court decisions.  Taking the time to research our industry allows us to stay current on the best claims presentation and handling processes and updates the ways we interact with our clients and the recommendations we make about their disability claims.  We hope that seeing how we keep our clients up to date on news and developments helps your own decision-making process and builds trust in the disability claim community.  Of course, the only problem is that change and developments never stop.  While these topics were current when this blog post was written, everyday they become a little more outdated.  Please stay tuned for future news and updates.  Continue reading

Medicinal Marijuana: How the Debate Affects You and Your Disability Claim

The pros and cons of medical marijuana use are a major area of contention in the alternative medicine communities and are beginning to appear on the radar of mainstream politics as well.  In fact, the very mention of the topic seems to cause controversy and raise strong feelings.  Whatever your beliefs, the use of medical marijuana is a topic that deserves examination.

As new studies have shown, medical marijuana may have a place and time in the treatment of many different ailments.  This is not an opinion shared by all medical experts.  There are increasing debates raging in the medical community about the usefulness and effectiveness of many different iterations of  the substance, from smoking the plant to eating marijuana reductions and taking synthetically produced THC medications as Marinol.  We have had several clients who have gotten good results and advocated the use of medical marijuana as well as clients who have questions about how the medication may affect their diseases and the corresponding effect on their disability claims.  Today I’m going to look at several facets of the argument and let you and your doctor decide on the proper course of treatment for your condition. Continue reading

Does the Affordable Care Act Affect Your Disability Insurance?

With last week’s Supreme Court ruling confirming the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), informally referred to as Obamacare, it’s now time to start looking forward to the parts of PPACA that have not yet taken effect and analyze the repercussions.  While it may not directly affect the disability insurance market, the PPACA will affect every individual currently receiving benefits.  Health insurance is an important part of physical and financial well-being, and the PPACA dramatically changes how we view health insurance in this country.  In the opinion of our firm, the PPACA helps most individuals, especially those people who are experiencing substantial medical problems in their lives.  Today I am going to break down the PPACA into its 10 Titles and touch on how each title may affect disabled individuals and specifically how they relate to disability insurance claims.  Continue reading