Maximus, Atos, and Work Capability Assessments
When Atos walked away from its contract to carry out Work Capability Assessments, the government needed to find a replacement. Today (29 October 2014) it was announced that the contract has been awarded to Maximus. Only time will tell of course, but for many disabled people the initial reaction may be, ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’.
Maximus is an American corporation which has been accused of fraud in the US. It recently entered the health assessment ‘market’ in the UK by acquiring British company Health Management Limited (HML). Medical Director at HML is Professor Mike O’Donnell - who was previously Chief Medical Officer at Atos.
In Professor O’Donnell’s Linkedin profile, he says that at Atos he was, "Responsible for Clinical Governance throughout the organisation."
Prior to being at Atos, Professor O’Donnell was Chief Medical Officer at Unum, a private insurance company which is alleged to have had a big influence over the Department for Work and Pensions in its reform of disability benefits and assessments.
The Disability News Service has reported that in 2005, whilst at Unum, Professor O’Donnell wrote: "We know that our views and understanding are not yet in the mainstream of doctors’ thinking, but Government Policy is moving in the same direction, to a large extent being driven by our thinking and that of our close associates, both in the UK and overseas.”
In 2012 legal website LawyersandSettlements.com reported, "Unum continues to suffer from a global reputation that it denies, delays or discontinues benefits in an alleged attempt to wear down policyholders in their pursuit of legitimate benefits."
Disabled researcher and military veteran Mo Stewart, who has done a great deal of work on the connections between the DWP and Unum, stated :“The WCA is a replica of the assessment system used by Unum to resist funding insurance claimants."
When Atos abandoned the contract for Work Capability Assessments, people may have hoped that a new company would mean a fresh start. Unfortunately the award of the contract to Maximus does not inspire confidence.
© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden
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