Winner 2000

Dateline NBC: The Paper Chase

NBC News

In 1993, one woman filed for medical accident coverage resulting from an auto accident claim. Her auto insurance company, State Farm, substantially reduced her medical claims after subjecting them to a “paper review,” the practice of sending only medical files and accident reports, not claimants themselves, to an independent firm for a second opinion. Her situation let to a 15-month investigation of this process by executive producer Neal Shapiro, senior producer Allan Maraynes, producer Lynne Dale, correspondent John Larson, reporter Andy Lehren, and associate producer Mable Chan. They examined medical claims from accidents sent to the nation’s largest insurance company, State Farm, and two of the paper review firms the company employed at the time. In their analysis, the producers and reporters inspected more than seventy thousand pages of documents, searched computer court files in more than one hundred courthouses in a dozen states, and examined the two companies, which were supposed to provided independent, objective medical review for State Farm. Their investigation found strong evidence alleging some medical reports were slanted toward denial or reduction of claims, while others were allegedly written by people with no medical training and reportedly used to deny or cut back medical claims. Since this report aired, Dateline NBC reported that State Farm has reviewed the credentials of all of its paper review companies, inspected almost 4,900 files subject earlier to review, and paid nearly 500 of them in full. This thorough, illuminating 15-month investigation examining denied medical accident claims led to changes in policy and vividly brought the paper review process to viewers’ attention, and, for so doing, a Peabody Award goes to Dateline NBC for The Paper Chase.