Imagine being in disability leave due to a medical condition and having your benefits taken away because of a single picture that appeared of you on Facebook. Suppose you are somebody who is indeed ill in one form or another, and you’ve been on long term disability for eighteen months thanks to that illness, and then suddenly your only source of income is ripped away from you.
That’s what happened to Nathalie Blanchard, an IBM employee that was on long-term disability leave due to heavy depression. Nathalie was put onto disability leave when she became unable to work over a year and half ago, since then her insurance carrier had been paying her salary – until now.
Manulife Insurance, the carrier in question, recently discovered Nathalie’s profile on facebook and discovered pictures that were posted of her having fun with friends in social situations (“girls night out”), and also on a vacation she took to a tropical paradise.
“Her Facebook pictures were enough to prove that she is ready to return to work,” was the statement issued by Manulife when this hit the fan.
Going out and having fun was suggested to her by her doctor, as research has shown over the years that those diagnosed with severe depression will often seclude themselves to an extreme measure. By going out and socializing, it helps them cope with their situation while maintaining a social life.
In a statement issued to the CBC, Manulife stated “We would not deny or terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on websites such as Facebook.” However actions speak louder than words and it appears that it just takes a few pictures to make things more stressful than they already are.
Simply having pictures of you on a social network should not be enough to strip you of your insurance benefits. Not only can they be easily taken out of context (i.e. just because you see somebody happy and enjoying themselves for the 1 second that it takes to shoot a picture, it doesn’t mean they are like that for the other 3,599 seconds in the day), but it also invokes paranoia about using social networks because of cases like this.
Imagine if this was a life-or-death type situation where your insurance benefits covered special treatment or medications that are keeping you alive, and then suddenly that is taken away from you because of a few innocent pictures. What if you were on blood thinners to prevent clots, or you were about to go in for brain surgery to remove a cancer lump that was pressing dangerously on your brain stem.
The truth of the matter is that insurance companies look for any excuse to drop beneficiaries when they start to cost a significant amount of money. And unfortunately there is not much that anybody can do about it, as burried deep within your insurance contract there is almost always a tiny little clause that says something like “The insurer reserves the right to cancel benefits at any time with due cause.” Due cause has apparently shifted from medical doctor testimony and patient records to pictures posted on the web.