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HANCOCK INSURANCE COMPANY ASKED TO PULL MISLEADING, EXPLOITATIVE ADVERTISING

 HANCOCK INSURANCE COMPANY ASKED TO PULL MISLEADING,
 EXPLOITATIVE ADVERTISING
 BOSTON, June 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The association representing professionals who treat communication disabilities charged that the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. is exploiting people with communication disorders through irresponsible and misleading advertising and has called on John Hancock to include treatment for communication disabilities as a basic benefit in its commercial health plan coverage.
 The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), the professional association of audiologists and speech-language pathologists, called on John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., based in Boston, to correct or withdraw its "Real Life, Real Answers" television ad featuring a young girl who stutters.
 "The portrayal of the young child in the ad is not 'real life,' and the ad's answer to stuttering is not a real answer," said Dr. Ann L. Carey, president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. "The Hancock ad is counterproductive to treatment and exploits individuals with communication disorders. Ironically, the company, which features a young girl who stutters to promote itself as responsible and concerned, is the only major commercial insurer that does not provide an outpatient speech-language pathology benefit in their health care plans."
 The Hancock advertisement features a young girl with a mild stutter who, choosing to communicate through a computer screen, comments that she "hates" words when she talks. The advertisement promotes "A Way to Pay for College" through investments in John Hancock's college funding program, annuities and whole life insurance.
 "By using such emotionally charged language," Carey continued, "the ad promotes Hancock financial services at the expense of people who stutter. in fact, it suggests the only alternative for somebody who stutters is to forgo person-to-person communication. This attitude is a hindrance to treatment and serves to isolate and stigmatize those who stutter.
 "Much like John Hancock's record on providing coverage for communication disorders, the ad suggests that stuttering cannot be treated," she continued. "Stuttering, especially of the mild nature portrayed in the ad, is fully treatable. We encourage John Hancock to revise this message and to catch up with the rest of the commercial insurance industry by offering coverage for such treatment."
 Approximately 37 million Americans experience some form of communication disability, according to ASHA. In fact, communication impairment is the most common disability in the United States today. More than 2 million Americans stutter, half of whom are children.
 Formed in 1925, ASHA has grown into an association of more than 67,000 audiologists and speech-language pathologists who practice in hospitals, health care clinics, schools and in private practice. ASHA also has a consumer affairs division which represents the interests of consumers, including people who stutter, within the association. The consumer affairs division provides assistance and information through an 800-telephone line (HELPLINE). More than 150,000 people have used the HELPLINE service since its inception in 1981. Headquartered in Rockville, Md., a suburb of Washington, ASHA is governed by elected volunteers. Its 150-member legislative council sets policy, and it is managed by a 10-member executive board.
 -0- 6/10/92
 /CONTACT: Lisa McGrady for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 202-452-9449/ CO: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; John Hancock
 Mutual Life Insurance Company ST: Massachusetts IN: ADV INS SU:


DC -- DC002 -- 8691 06/10/92 09:32 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jun 10, 1992
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