Tuesday, 2 November 2010

We interrupt this blog to bring you a WARNING...

There are few things that get me riled more than bullying, and its at its worst when it is big companies bullying their customers.   I want to put a warning on the blog because, in this instance, its insurance companies who are being the thugs, and their targets are horse owners.

Briefly, when the UK economy was more robust than it is today, insurance companies would generally honour the wording on their equine policies without too much quibbling; if the policy covered alternative therapy, or something similar then, provided you had a vet referral, a horse which came here would have at least part of the rehab costs reimbursed by the insurers.  We have had a number of horses come through Project Dexter, for instance, on this basis.

What I've found in the last 6 months, however, is that suddenly insurance companies have become bullies - and one company in particular.  There is no other word for it  - the wording of the insurance policies hasn't changed  - so contractually, if the insurer paid last year, then in the same circumstances it is obliged to pay this year.  But it has decided it doesn't want to.

Of course, on the blog, I can't name the company concerned but it is surprisingly "reputable".  Nevertheless, it is prepared to take premium payments every month and then when an owner makes a claim for sending a horse here (on vet referral) they are resorting to bullying, intimidation and lies to avoid paying out on the policy.

One owner a few weeks ago was told outright by these insurers that they had never, ever paid for a horse to undergo rehab here (the insurers said the same thing to another owner today, incidentally - so much for duty of utmost good faith between insurers and insured...).  The insurers were pretty furious when I emailed to them and the owner a copy of the cheque and letterhead which they had addressed to me a year earlier, funding the rehab of one of the Project Dexter horses.  There is no excuse for this - its unprofessional, uncontractual and illegal.

I find it appalling that they are prepared to lie to their customers, and to use their myriad staff to make it so hard for owners to claim that most will give up.   Its not simply a question of economics, but of horse welfare.

This isn't the end of the story, happily, because there is at least one owner who is determined to bring the company to account and who is contacting the Insurance Ombudsman.  I will update the blog as and when, but in the meantime, if you are renewing or taking out insurance, feel free to email me to find out whether your insurer is worth paying or not....

Years ago, there were 2 types of insurance companies who provided cover for horses - the good guys and the complete chancers.  Sadly, it seems as if today even the "good" guys won't honour their contractual obligations without a fight and legal representation.

Maybe its time to consider self-insurance instead?!...More on that another day...


Lucie said...

I can, in a way, relate to this as it took us a year of arguing with Soli's insurance company to finally get them to pay out. We, in the end, had to threaten to report them to the FO and to instruct solicitors and ooo suddenly, they pay out!! Unbelievable really because some poor people will just accept it and give up :( We never did get everything paid out for Soli but to us, anything was a bonus after what they put us through!!

Cristina said...

Interesting - they seem to be trying to save costs where they can at the moment. I have also heard recently them quibbling paying out for nutraceuticals which they had previously paid out for: things like MSM and Glucosomine.

It's ironic really, my claim for his feet feet had run out when Frankie went down to Rockley but if I'd been able to claim it would have been a relatively cheap option and a small proportion of the total amount I claimed for his feet.

Nic Barker said...

Yes, its the same pattern over and over again, isn't it? I had the same issue many years ago when I had a horse insured and it had to be put down - it was only when I threatened the company with the ombudsman and had gone through a lengthy complaints procedure that they paid up.

I agree its ironic - the horse at the centre of the current dispute is insured for loss of use, so it would have been cheaper for the company to pay for it to come here than to pay out for loss of use. There isn't rhyme or reason to it, they are just trying to make it as hard as possible for people to get the money which is due to them :-(

Dare Gothic Clothing said...

My head is spinning with the illogic of it as well, having been told yesterday by my insurer that they will not pay for Isha to come for rehabiliation, but they will pay if she has to be humanely destroyed if we cannot solve her lameness - again the cheapest option to them would be to have her rehab paid for, never mind the moral choice of what is best for the horse. They have already paid out more in diagnostics than the cost of Rockley, and they are still happy to continue down the vetinery route, I could basically keep prodding and poking Isha for 12 months to get a diagnoses with no hope of any rehab at the end of it.
Interestingly I think they may have changed the definition of a 'specialist' on their 'alternative therapy' section of my policy, renewed this March - now defined "a person qualified to carry out therapeutic procedures which an un-qualified person is not legally allowed to carry out". During my discussion on the phone with them yesterday they kept repeating that it would not be illegal for anyone to do what Nic is doing so therefore they will not pay. Also for all barefoot people out there, check with your insurer before taking out the policy - my company will pay for any remedial farriery, but they will not pay for any barefoot trimming as they do not recognise this an a qualification, I got the impression that even if a qualified farrier was doing the trimming they do not recognise it as 'remedial farriery'.
I am not in a great financial situation but despite this I am still sending Isha to Rockley (next week yippeee!) but it is going to be very difficult and makes the comprehensive insurance package I am paying out for a total waste of money :(

Nic Barker said...

Fayley, keep all your paperwork and make a note of phone conversations - this is not over yet!

Insurers cannot unilaterally change the terms of their contract with you - they don't include definitions of the terms they are quibbling about and their understanding of the law is dodgy at best...I am speaking with my solicitor's head on here, by the way, which is what my job used to be many years ago ;-)

I'll email you separately so you can get involved in the discussions with the ombudsman.

Cristina said...

Fayley - from the wording sounds like you're with the same insurance company as me. Could it be covered by Alternative Husbandry - cost of livery, bedding, feed and feed supplements instead of Alternative Therapy.

If we are talking about the one I have Frankie insured with, I think they've paid out about £10,000 on various claims for him in the past three years and with his history, I doubt anyone else would take him on now.

Dare Gothic Clothing said...

Hi Christina, unfortunately they are saying flat out at the moment that they will not pay anything towards any costs related to Isha's stay at Rockley, I did ask about livery and Isha's transportation costs (covered under my policy). They have told me over the phone they will not pay towards any costs related to Rockley.
I had always thought them to be brilliant in the past but I have only ever tried to claim vet fees previously.
Its strange as when I updated them on Isha in September and told them she was still on box rest and going to have more xrays they reassured me that if I was incurring greater costs than usual with any livery fees I would be covered, however I said it was not necessary so far as I stable her at my own property.
Needless to say I am confused at present!

Cristina said...

Sounds like they are making a point so as not to set a precedent.
I'm sure we are talking about the same insurance company and the new wording for Alternative therapies would exclude Rockley and it wouldn't come under hospitlisation livery which is a separate section but it fits right in with Alternative Husbandry. It wouldn't have worked for me as you have to show the costs are over and above your usual costs and Rockley Rehab is cheaper that Herts 5 day livery!

The problem with self insurance is that it works best if you have several horses which spreads the risk, the numbers don't add up with one accident prone Frankie and as I said no one else would take him on with his history so I am going to have to continue to use the company we're referring to. Never mind, it costs them more than it costs me.

Good luck with Isha.