Rob Lockard's Story
After serving our country as a member of the Air Force, Rob Lockard got a good job working hard to support his family. Up until three years ago he was a member of the middle class. Rob even had insurance with Lincoln National Life Insurance company in case anything ever happened to him. Today, Rob can’t afford to pay for his electric or heating bills, much less for furniture, car repairs, or doctor’s appointments. Rob and his family did nothing wrong, but like far too many Americans, Rob and they fell victim to an insurance market that is rigged against them.
Rob’s battle with cancer and with Lincoln National
Three years ago, Rob was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, during the first round of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy doctors were able to eradicate Rob’s tumor. Unfortunately, shortly after the treatment ended, Rob began to experience excruciating bone, shoulder, and neck pain. His condition deteriorated and eventually the Social Security Administration decided that Rob was disabled and unable to work. Though Rob intended to return to work, there was no way that he could continue as a saw operator. He was forced to stop working and start taking disability benefits in July of 2015.
As a part of the insurance plan that he had paid into through his employer for years, Rob was covered with disability benefits in the event of a disaster. However, when disaster struck, Rob discovered that his insurance company would instead do everything in their power to avoid paying coverage to Rob and his family. Lincoln National cut Rob’s benefits on June 5, 2017.
The Bigger Problem
After looking into Rob’s experience, we learned that Lincoln National’s decision to terminate benefits like this is not uncommon. Their decision follows a predatory tactic of eliminating benefits without providing independent medical evaluations for policyholders. Contrary to the Social Security Administration’s ruling, Lincoln National repeatedly claimed that Rob was not disabled. As a result, Rob could not afford to return to the doctor to receive official reports on his condition. In cases like Rob’s, insurance companies like Lincoln National know that it will be extremely difficult for their customers to challenge them in court. This is particularly true when these customers are struggling to pay their medical bills and keep up with rent, mortgages, or other expenses. Even more disturbingly, under legislation called ERISA, insurance companies are protected from lawsuits where policy holders allege misconduct on the part of the insurance company. This combination of incentives and flawed legislation makes cases like Rob’s far too common and far too difficult to rectify on a case by case basis.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was passed in 1974 and was intended to standardize health, retirement, and disability policies among private insurers. One of the primary failures of ERISA is that is affords insurance providers “discretionary” oversight. "Discretionary" oversight is usually reserved for government agencies, whose mission is to serve the public. Unfortunately, ERISA allows private for-profit companies “discretionary” status, making it incredibly difficult for normal people to challenge any violations of the contracts these insurance companies have with their clients. For people like Rob, this means that insurance companies are almost always forced to settle the claims against them for half of what they owe their policyholders. This means that policyholders never receive the payments that they were promised, and the settlement also almost always includes a non-disclosure clause that prevents Americans like Rob from discussing how they have been wronged. When it’s all said and done, companies get away with paying out half of what they owe to policy holders like Rob and ensuring his silence through nondisclosure agreements. Americans everywhere should be outraged.
In Congress we would advocate for two major policy changes to protect the many people like Rob who have been wronged by companies like Lincoln National. Today, Lincoln National is one of the largest disability insurance providers in the country. It is more important now, than ever, to stop Lincoln National’s predatory policies. As such we propose:
Increasing resources for state insurance commissioners to ensure that they investigate insurance providers and hold them accountable for predatory policies. In a few states, insurance commissioners have lead successful lawsuits, however, this problem needs national attention. This will help ensure that insurance providers are aware that they will be held accountable for violations of contract. We also propose reforming ERISA to take away “discretionary” status for insurance providers. As a result, companies would not be granted legal protections that should be reserved for public agencies. This would help policyholders keep insurance companies accountable.
As your Congresswoman I will fight to protect the little guy - people like Rob Lockard. Unfortunately, until I am in Congress, there’s only so much that I can do. However, in this campaign I won’t be held back by partisanship. I will continue to fight for people like Rob Lockard to ensure that their representatives in Congress are actually willing to listen to them and to address their problems.
We have put together a GoFundMe to help Rob and his family pay their bills and make it through the winter as they fight against Lincoln Financial. Please help them by donating anything you can here.