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Assurant Health battles consumer complaints online

MedSave Admin | June 2, 2008

Facing an increase in consumer complaints, key employee defections and dwindling support from employee benefit professionals, Assurant Health is apparently using a free article Blog to boost public opinion. It is not clear whether this rosy but generic post at ArticleStreet.com titled "Free Article About Assurant Healthcare" is from an Assurant employee or a professional blogger. It seems clear this piece is meant for redistribution and is intended for general positive promotion of the company's image rather than a specific individual's experience. As such, this is classified as an advertisement under the law. While there is nothing wrong with boosting public opinion through advertising, a lack of disclosure of the origination of information and advertising of a publicly traded company is a violation of SEC laws. It seems unlikely that an unrelated and unidentified person would produce such an article with "insider" type information about the company, but there is no proof of wrongdoing. But more likely than not, this is a dangerous violation of securities laws.

On the bigger picture, Assurant faces public opinion problems from consumer complaints published online. While no one is in love with their health insurance company, the criticism of Assurant is particularly harsh. Reports at EvilEntities.com, Businessreporter.net, Ripoffreport.com, selfemployedweb.com and CBSnews.com all trash Assurant's image. Search engines like Google make the complaints plainly accessible to millions, regardless of their objectivity or accuracy. Some of the public complaints have been removed; we do not know if this was done through an initiative of Assurant's legal team.

MedSave.com has commented on specific issues of Assurant Health, formerly known as Fortis Health and Time Insurance. We focused our attention on two specific issues: 1) the tiered renewal rated policy (that segregates and penalized unhealthy people even though they had voluntarily purchased insurance) and 2) the received corporate culture of management dishonesty (based on our own past experiences and statements of former employees). Because our comments are focused, specific, and well documented, we have avoided the legal risks thast might have scared the consumers who posted public complaints. Still, our track record is not problem-free. One now-defunct Web site called Assurantadviser.com was previously maintained for news of interest to Assurant's shareholders by Registered Investment Adviser Tony Novak was threatened by Assurant's corporate attorney.

It is clear that managing a company's public opinion in the Internet is a challenging issue. We beleive that this aspect will eventually revolutionize our markets and that health insurance is likely to embrace social media opinions ealier than most industries. Clearly, there is a lot at stake.

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