CommInsure background checks claimants on Google

By @mik_mapa on
Commonwealth Bank of Australia
A Commonwealth Bank of Australia logo adorns the wall of a branch located in Sydney, Australia, November 5, 2015. Reuters/David Gray

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) wealth manage group executive Annabel Spring has revealed that CommInsure staff used Google to test 1.5 percent of insurance claimants for fraud. She said that less than 0.5 percent of cases resorted to physical surveillance. She added that when the information became contradictory then they would further investigate.

ANZ wealth executive Alexis George said that the bank's life insurance provider OnePath has used the internet to check the profile of the claimants. She said that physical surveillance should be approved by several layers of management.

“I couldn’t tell you the exact number of times we look at Google or something, but it is something we do from time to time. We have never had a complaint in terms of surveillance,” George told the joint parliamentary committee hearing, according to The Australian.

Banks and major insurers along with industry bodies were gathered during the public hearing. It is the third hearing that tackles relevant issues and reforms into the life insurance industry.

CommInsure has faced controversy for using outdated medical definitions, including heart attack definition, to knock back some claims. It was also accused of pressuring doctors to change medical opinions and delaying payments to terminally ill customers. However, Deloitte cleared CBA of systemic problems in its life insurance business. The independent report stated that there was no evidence of pressuring doctors or denying claims.

"We reviewed all possible claims and found 17 we paid, which was $2.5 million to 17 people. We agree that was poor judgement on our behalf and that's why we've remediated," Spring said. She said that customer call files were searched to check who among the customers were affected by the outdated definition. Spring conceded that the bank could have taken a different approach.

BT Financial Group was also present in the hearing telling that they changed the heart attack definition in 2011. BT Financial Group chief executive Brad Cooper said that they did it proactively.

During the hearing, it was brought up that the entire medical history of customers were  provided by doctors which shocked the members of the parliamentary panel. BT Financial Group general manager of insurance Sue Houghton said sometimes doctors provided the records voluntarily even if the company did not ask for it.

Spring was asked if the company would use the full medical records against its clients. She said that it was not the company's intention to use it for that purpose. She said that the insurance industry and the doctors should work more closely together. "The conversations between the industry and the medical fraternity could be improved. It should improve both with respect to the efficiency of that conversation, so that we can get that data specific to the claim," she said.

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