Karen Bloom was a partner and doctor specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Rehabilitation Associates in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1999, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In 2002, she decided to perform most of her work on an outpatient, rather than inpatient basis.
At the beginning of 2004, Dr. Bloom became unable to continue working full-time for Rehabilitation Associates because of her MS. She subsequently transitioned into part-time work and filed a claim in March 2004 for long-term disability benefits under the group policy provided by Hartford through her employer since 2002.
On September 21, 2004, Harford denied Dr. Bloom’s claim. In its denial, Hartford claimed that Dr. Bloom had a pre-existing condition, based on a date of disability of December 1, 2002. Through her attorney, Dr. Bloom appealed the denial. While admitting that she had a condition that existed prior to the effective date of the policy (October 2, 2002), Dr. Bloom’s position was that she became disabled after the 365-day elimination period had run, since she had claimed a date of disability in 2004, and thus was still entitled to coverage under the policy. Hartford’s position was that when Dr. Bloom transitioned from inpatient to outpatient work, she did so because of her MS, and thus had reduced hours in 2002 because of her condition.
Hartford contacted Dr. Bloom’s doctors, who agreed that she was disabled, but not until 2004. Despite the full support of her doctors, Hartford denied her appeal on July 8, 2005. In its denial letter it recited the same incorrect information it had relied upon in its previous denial. In response, Dr. Bloom filed suit in Federal Court. The federal court granted summary judgment in favor of Dr. Bloom after concluding that Hartford’s decision was arbitrary and capricious because it had relied on circumstantial evidence of her disability – work records and salary reports – rather than the medical records that existed between Hartford’s determined date of disability and Dr. Bloom’s claimed date of disability. Hartford appealed the trial court’s decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On appeal, the decision to award benefits to Dr. Bloom was upheld. However, the court ordered that Hartford conduct the appropriate evaluation as to the true date of disability and to determine the amount of benefits owed to her.
From a practical standpoint, this case highlights two important points. One, it is vitally important to have an attorney involved in filing a claim as soon as possible. Had an attorney been involved at the outset at the filing of the claim, Dr. Bloom could perhaps have avoided leaving the door open for Hartford to deny her based on a pre-existing condition. Two, while Dr. Bloom won her case, because of the decision on appeal she is still subject to the whims of Hartford in picking a date of disability and determining the benefits that she is owed. Ultimately, she may have won the battle for entitlement to benefits, but lost the war, since Hartford still controls her date of disability and how much money she will receive under the disability policy.
See Bloom v. Hartford Ins. Co., No. 07-6374 (6th Cir. Jul. 21, 2009).
About the author: Gregory Michael Dell is an attorney and managing partner of the disability income division of Attorneys Dell & Schaefer. Mr. Dell and his team of lawyers have assisted thousands of long-term disability claimants with their claims against every major disability insurance company. To request a free legal consultation call 800-411-9085.