DES OINS, IOWA -- I retired March 31, 2010. My former employer kindly permitted me to continue existing health and dental insurance policies at my own expense until 9.1.11 when I will turn 65. Dental insurance was through Principal Financial Group (P). P was fully advised of my retirement status. However, at no time did P inform either my former employer or me of its intention to terminate my insurance coverage on March 31, 2011 (or at any other time).
Here's my complaint. Having failed to disclose an (apparently covert and) impending termination of coverage, P knowingly delayed processing my request for payment predetermination of (clearly covered) dental procedures until it was able to deny coverage on the ground the policy had been terminated. In other words, P sought to escape paying its fair share of a clearly covered dental procedure by figuratively scratching its head and shuffling its feet for nearly 2 months before jumping up and shouting "GOTCHA."
Where I'm from that behavior is often described as lying in the weeds. It's not conduct one expects of a company that promotes itself as ethical and relies on the good will of its customers. Here's what happened. February 8, 2011, my dentist's office submitted to P a full and complete predetermination request for replacement of failed abutment fixtures and crowns for 2 dental implants that were almost 15 years old. Principal waited almost a month, until March 4, before requesting extensive additional information. My dentist's office promptly supplied the additional information, while privately noting the request seemed a bit out of the ordinary.
My dentist's office advises that approximately a week later (this would have been toward the middle of March), Principal submitted yet ANOTHER request for further information. (By then shaking its collective head), my dentist's office supplied the further information requested. Principal says it received this information in April. In late April I received from P a denial of coverage based upon an asserted policy termination date of March 31. Totally surprised, I asked my former employer whether it had been advised of the March 31 (or any other) policy termination date. It had not.
I immediately filed with P a written request for reconsideration based on the company's delayed handling of my request and its failure to disclose its intention to terminate my policy. No reply. I phoned the company perhaps 10 days later. A representative told me no one would respond to my inquiry “because the policy is terminated.” HUH?? I then filed a request for assistance and reconsideration through the Principal Financial Group website. Several weeks later, I received a reply letter.
The letter denied P had made a second request for information. It altogether failed to address the company's failure to disclose its impending, seemingly covert policy termination date. It found “unfortunate that your predetermination wasn't filed to allow ample time to receive any information necessary for review,” and asserted, “We strive to process all correspondence in an accurate and timely manner.” In other words, “Piss off.”
I don't know whether P had a legal obligation to disclose the policy termination date, but it certainly had an ethical obligation to do so. I don't know whether, under the circumstances, seriatim requests for arguably unnecessary information over the course of more than 2 months constitutes unconscionable stalling, but even my mild mannered and eminently fair dentist found it disingenuous and more than a bit untoward.
Whether or not Principal Financial crossed any legal lines in this matter, to me one thing seems absolutely clear. A company that callously advances its financial interests over those of its own clients in matters of relative monetary insignificance such as this one is not a company I would ever trust to manage my current finances or the future security of my family. Simply a word, I should hope, to the wise.
IOWA -- I purchased and paid on a group coverage employee benefit long-term disability policy through Principal Financial Services for years. When PFG first approached my company to offer their financial services products, my employer really leaned on all the employees to take out this company's LTD policy coverage because the company needed at least 15 employees to enroll in the plan in order to have PFG LTD coverage in the first place; and, the more employees who elected to buy LTD policies from PFG, the lower the monthly premium costs would be for each individual employee enrolled.
I was one of the first employees to elect to take this coverage. Having been a single parent for years, I was always worried about what would happen if I became disabled and couldn't work. Then the worst happened in 2007 and I became totally disabled. I had my short term disability policy through Aflac. When I applied for these benefits, they paid me promptly. I then applied for, and received, my social security disability benefits. They were very quick to approve me within 4 months of my initial application online. But I have yet to collect one dime on my Principal Financial Group LTD policy!
No one tells you when you sign up and pay for this type of coverage that all group insurance benefit policies are governed under the federal ERISA laws. Group policies are not regulated by the insurance laws in your individual states which would offer the consumer more protection.
The ERISA laws were originally drafted to protect the consumer and to compel the insurance companies to process claims quickly, in 90 days or less. Sounds good; but, in reality, the ERISA laws have so many loopholes in them that protect the insurance companies, not the consumer, that insurance companies can drag out paying on a group coverage claim for a very long time.
There are no provisions in the ERISA laws for a consumer to get punitive damages from the insurance company if they willfully keep denying a claim for the most ridiculous of reasons; and, you can't get any interest on the money they owe you if they withhold paying you for years and years. The ERISA laws actually work to the insurance companies' advantage if they drag out paying their LTD claims for as long as they possibly can.
Even with an attorney to fight for you, the insurance companies know that they can play this game for a good long time. There is nothing anyone can do about it unless and until you go to court to collect. And ERISA attorneys will take 30% to 50% of your back benefits when you do eventually collect. Remember that! An attorney has every motivation to drag out an ERISA claim for as long as they possibly can also! Dragging out the processing of your ERISA claim just increases the percentage of their contingency fee! So now whose really looking out for the consumer's interest? Nobody!
I am almost 2 years down the road trying to collect on my LTD policy from PFG. My attorney tells me they will make me a lump sum settlement offer after all the claims and appeals processes are over and right before we are due to go to court.
Meanwhile, expect to be followed around by a PFG paid private investigator who will attempt to gather photographic "evidence" to dispute your claim. Whatever "evidence" they do manage to collect on you will be used against you later to intimidate you into taking a small "settlement offer". Of course the settlement offer is only a fraction of what you would collect if PFG were to actually pay you the promised monthly disability benefits (until age 66, which is all your covered for under their policies). At age 66 you fall back on SSA benefits only and PFG will cease to pay. A disability policy is not the same as a retirement policy, keep that in mind.
Did I mention PFG also makes you assign all your monthly SSA checks over to them until age 66 IF you are so lucky as to actually collect a monthly benefit check from them? Reduce the monthly benefit amount showing on your policy by the amount of SSA benefits you would or do receive. That's the actual dollar amount PFG would pay you, if you ever get paid anything at all. If you take the settlement offer, which most people do after all this grief, they'll make you sign a gag order so that the length of time it took for PFG to settle your LTD claim will never be a matter of public record.
That way, when consumers try to determine PFG's track record on their claims, and the time it took to actually process and pay on PFG claims, the public record will look like all PFG claims were processed and paid within the 90 days allowed by ERISA law.
Pretty sharp, huh? They have some great attorneys working for them. And, from what I see on the internet, PFG spends the most lobbying dollars of any insurance company you could choose out there with similar products to ensure that our lawmakers never close up the loopholes in the existing ERISA laws. Beware Principal Financial Group LTD policies. In my opinion they are not worth the paper they're written on.
NEW JERSEY -- In September 2008, my husband requested Principal Financial Group to move all the money he has invested in U.S. Sep. Account into another investment account. They did not grant my husband's request. They told my husband there would be a delay in moving the money out of that account because they are currently not honoring his or anyone's request for changes to this account. In the meantime, since January we lost over $15,000. We should be able to move our money from one account to another account. We did not sign a contract with them and we believe this is illegal.
Recently I decided to enroll in a 401k program through my current employer. I was trying to enroll online to the 401k program which was unsuccessful then called customer service. A guy with the name of Spencer came on the phone line. I explained to him that I couldn't login. He proceeded to ask for my name, social security number. I gave him my information. Then he asked me for my contract number which I didn't have. He came back with a very sarcastic voice telling me "If you don't have a contract number I can't help you." I asked to speak with his manager because I felt he was being rude to me. He told the managers name was Spencer that he was the manager.
Thanks to customer service representatives companies like Principal has lost customers like me because I decided to maybe discontinue my 401k program with them.