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Need a job? Consider selling insurance!

May 4th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

man_with_arms_behind_headIf you’re one of the thousands of people hit hard by job loss the past two years, you’d probably do most anything to regain your career and income.

But regardless what you used to do for a living, it may be time to branch out and learn something new.

Which brings me to what could be a very important question:  Have you considered working in the insurance industry?

According to a new survey cited online at Insurance Networking News, the insurance job market is slowly beginning to bounce back. Whereas the national unemployment average in most industries is now 9.7 percent, the rate in the insurance segment lingers at 7.7 percent—a full two percentage points lower than the national average.

If you think you might be interested in selling property and casualty insurance, your chances are especially promising, shows the 2010 Employment Outlook Survey. Jobs with multiple openings appear to include P&C sales, claims, underwriting, call center and IT.

The bottom line? 74 percent of our nation’s insurers are hiring! So if you ever had an inkling that working in insurance might be for you, it appears now is the time to find out, as nine companies indicate they plan to hire at least 2,000 new employees and 21 companies predict bringing aboard more than 500 people this year.

Curious what it takes to become an insurance agent? To find out how to get licensed and work the job successfully, check out our article How to Become an Insurance Agent. Then give it serious consideration. You might just have a new, profitable career on your hands.

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Homeowners Affected by Flooding Reluctant to Budge

April 23rd, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

We’ve all heard the expression, “Home is where the heart is.” And there’s really nothing truer. evacuation-route-sign

But how would you feel if torrential flooding damaged your home over and over—and you were asked to sell out to the government and start over on higher ground. Would you do it?

As related by the Insurance Journal earlier this week, some people, like Larry Frese and his neighbors of Chelsea, Iowa, are saying no. Even after multiple incidents of flooding, these mid-westerners are refusing to leave their homes in favor of waging the battle against flooding time and time again.

Why? ”I love this town too much to leave,” Frese says.

Government buyouts like these are voluntary. But battling floods is expensive, including not only the cost of cleaning up, but also sandbagging, paying for emergency shelter, and rescuing people and animals who get caught in flood water.

Who pays these expenses? Homeowners and their insurance companies. That’s why flood insurance, purchased through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a few private insurance companies, is additional coverage required for anyone whose home rests on a flood plain, or in low-lying areas likely to collect water that could significantly damage their home.

But the government also heavily subsidizes flood insurance policies. So, rather than spend all that money to continually fight flooding, its proposal allows homeowners to get a new start elsewhere.

In turn, rather than building new homes in those flood-prone areas, it replaces those homes with green space, parks or wildlife refuges.

Seems reasonable. But if you’ve lived in your home for years, like Frese and his family, it’s hard to move away. And some communities want no part of it.

“I’m not about to move, and neither are my neighbors,” says 84-year-old Leonard Balvin, who has spent his life in Chelsea. ”I guess we’re just kind of stubborn. If we have a flood, it’ll be bad for two or three days, then go down. We’ll sweat it out.” 

Though buy-outs are often the most cost-effective approach, many feel they fail to take emotions and lives into consideration. What do you think?

 Could you leave, if asked? Would you?

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Toyota Accident Trend No Surprise to State Farm

February 18th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

As we alluded to in our previous post (and you may have already heard in the media), mechanical issues involving Toyota vehicles came as no surprise to the nation’s largest auto insurer.

In fact, State Farm reported a disturbing trend involving some Toyota models way back in 2007.

Late that year, the company contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to report a worrying accident trend it was seeing amongst drivers of some Toyota vehicles.

State Farm processes a huge volume of consumer claims each year. The company felt the pattern of accidents it was seeing was not normal and indicated a problem, though few other insurers saw the same.

Few others, however, write enough auto policies to make such a trend noticeable. State Farm, on the other hand, holds more than 42 million auto policies nationwide.

As reported in the Insurance Journal, spokesman Kip Diggs said of the company’s actions, “When you start to see significant claims activity that indicates that there may be widespread problems with a product, that’s when you go to the NHTSA. There had to have been significant activity, a noticeable trend, for that to happen.”

Now, two Congressional leaders are requesting information from State Farm and four other top auto insurers, including Geico, Allstate, Farmers and Progressive. Lawmakers are looking for any information regarding consumer complaints of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyotas and any warnings these companies may have provided the NHTSA concerning defect trends in those vehicles.

Consumers who own recalled Toyotas and were involved in accidents during the past few years may have seen their insurance rates rise unfairly due to mechanical defects like stuck accelerators and floor mats that caused braking issues.

With further research, if some of those mishaps are proven to have been caused by vehicle fault, rather than driver error, some Toyota owners may see their insurance premiums return to the rates they were paying pre-accident.

This isn’t the first time State Farm has come to consumers’ aid regarding safety. The company also collected data and tracked problems that linked rollover accidents in Ford Explorers with Firestone tires 10 years ago. 

With the previous trends the insurer noted concerning Toyota, it seems State Farm is at work on drivers’ behalf once again.

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The Dog Bite Debate (Continued)

November 2nd, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

dobermanBack in August, we discussed something here on the insurance blog that proved a passionate topic for many: the cost of insuring dangerous dog breeds.

Now, I know how much we all love our dogs. But I was surprised at the reaction I got from that post, emotions ranging from anger against ‘discrimination’ to understanding and agreement on why some breeds of dog cost more to insure than others.

I’d like to reopen that discussion now, as I’ve been reading more on the insurance debate and the actual statistics associated with insuring against dog bite lately.

For instance, did you know that dogs cause approximately $1 billion in medical and insurance losses annually? Or that one-third of all homeowners claims involve dog bites?

Are those numbers as staggering to you as they are to me?

Insurers apparently think so. In fact, some are now choosing not to insure more dangerous dog breeds at all, while others are placing limits on coverage within each household.

On the one hand, that’s difficult to deal with if you’re the owner of a “problem dog.” On the other hand, if you live next door to one and it bites your kid’s finger off, you likely have a little different perspective on the matter.

So what does it cost to buy liability coverage for that ferocious Rottweiler, Doberman or German Shepherd?

Well, you can usually get about $100,000 worth of coverage for $700 to $1,000 per year. But many experts recommend buying three times that much coverage, just in case Fido decides to take a finger off and little Suzy has to have it reattached.

OK, so that’s a bit gross. But you get the idea: you can never be too careful around some dogs, just like I doubt you can ever buy too much liability insurance to cover them.

So read the latest stats from the CDC and others in our article, Dangerous Dogs Pose Insurance Debate, and let us know what you think. It may or may not change your opinion on the matter.


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Fraud!

March 16th, 2009 by Jeb Foster

white-collar-criminalDid you know that 10 percent of all property-related insurance claims are fraudulent?

That’s according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a group of insurance companies, consumer groups and law enforcement organizations.

Fraud can be classified into two groups—soft fraud and hard fraud:

Soft fraud is when a person bends, omits or obscures the truth for small financial gain, such as underestimating your mileage on an auto insurance application. While such a thing may seem small and harmless to you, these little white lies end up costing insurers millions of dollars each year, and they pass on that cost to all of their policyholders, honest and dishonest alike.

Hard fraud is deliberate, calculated deception for large-scale financial gain/or avoidance of loss. Giving up your car and reporting it stolen, for example; claiming injury after an accident (many of which are staged); offing someone for the life insurance payout. You get the idea.

Occasionally there are cases of insurance fraud that are so brazen and ridiculous you’ve almost got to hand it to the person for their chutzpah. Pennsylvania judge (yes, judge) Michael Joyce is an example. Joyce claimed extensive injury and chronic pain and demanded millions in payments after a … 5 M.P.H fender bender.

If his through-the-teeth-lying isn’t enough to raise your eyebrows, consider that Joyce, after pocketing nearly half a million from insurance companies, proceeded to go golfing, inline skating and scuba diving in the Caribbean.

He even got his pilot’s license (despite claiming to suffer from a brain injury that impaired his mental functioning).

Joyce is looking at a direct flight to the slammer. He can take some consolation in the fact that he’s now a minor celebrity: he made it into the Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame.

Other Hall inductees from last year include “sinister seniors” Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt, who make Michael Joyce look like a saint by comparison. Golay and Rutterschmidt killed two homeless men after befriending them and surreptitiously setting them up with millions in life insurance.

If your curiosity is as morbid as ours, you can read all about Golay and Rutterschmidt here. Not responsible for Golay-Rutterschmidt-related nightmares.

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Frozen Squirrels, Licking Cows & Weird Insurance Claims

March 4th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

licking-cowNow that I’ve got your attention, it’s quiz time. Ready?

What do frozen squirrels and licking cows have in common (other than the fact that they’re both animals)?

Here’s the truth, an answer you might not believe: they’ve both been named in weird insurance claims filed in the U.S. during the past few years.

Some policyholders, looking to make a dollar or two through insurance payouts, file strange claims involving animals, food and inanimate objects. Others find themselves in unusual situations involving bumbling burglars, slips and falls or true instances of loss—and sincerely need help.

In fact, some people max out their insurance coverage over some of the strangest and most random occurrences insurance companies have ever heard of.

Take for instance these examples:

  • A homeowner, concerned that her pipes were leaking, submitted a claim for standing water in her backyard garden. When the insurance adjuster came to inspect the damage, he found only the family dog which, it turns out, enjoyed relieving himself in the same spot over and over.
  • A policyholder submitted a claim for a new bed, explaining that he wore out his old one by having too much sex.
  • A woman filed a renter’s insurance claim when she discovered that her cell phone wouldn’t work after she cleaned it—in the dishwasher.
  • A woman sued a nightclub—and won—after she fell through a window and broke some of her teeth. At the time the incident happened, she had been sneaking into the club to avoid paying a cover charge.

Though most of us can’t help but laugh at the ridiculous situations some people seem to find themselves in, how do these strange things happen in the first place—or do they? Who’s to say?

To read some of the other strange occurrences for which people file claims, read our article on the subject here. But please; for your own sake, use some common sense where your insurance is concerned—and save your claims for true emergencies.

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David Zabriskie’s Enormous Homeowners Insurance Claim

February 27th, 2009 by Jeb Foster

david-zabriskiePro cyclist Dave Zabriskie has had a tough week.

First, he was edged out by his countryman Levi Leipheimer in the Tour of California.* Then he got a speeding ticket on his way home to Utah.

But the ticket paled in comparison to what happened next. On returning to his Salt Lake City home, he noticed that something wasn’t quite right. A few of his prized possessions seemed to be … missing.

Quickly it was clear: he’d been burgled. Badly burgled.

Zabriskie posted this message to his Twitter account the morning of Feb. 24:

My house was broken into while at [the Tour of California]. They took everything, a lot of bikes, cars, and you name it they got it.

Yes, that would be “cars.” Plural. They stole more than one.

But cars can be replaced. So too can the 52” flat-screen television that was stolen. And the $15,000 Bose sound system.

Harder to replace, however, are things like a Beijing Olympic ring and Giro d’Italia race medal. Each tally in the thousands in market value, but sentimental value is harder to put a price on.

Here’s the complete list of what burglars stole from Zabriskie’s home:

  • Black 2008 Subaru Outback, Utah plate A189NC
  • Black 2006 Toyota Scion, Utah plate 094VWM
  • Giro D Italia Race Medal (approx. 6″ circumference)
  • Olympic Seiko watch
  • Beijing Olympic ring (silver) with initials “DZ” engraved ($4,000)
  • Olympic Time Trial Bike, plus 12 other bikes (combined value of $100,000)
  • Cervelo (black/red) bike frame - team issued ($5000)
  • Tag Heuer watch ($6,000)
  • Bose Speaker/Receiver System ($15,000)
  • Sony 52″ flat screen TV ($4,000)
  • Two Mac Books and one Mac desktop, plus hard drive ($8,000)
  • A pair of Space legs, a recovery compression system for legs ($5,000)
  • 7 Marvel sideshow statues** ($11,000)

I can’t decide which is harder to fathom—owning $100,000 in bikes or having all 13 of them stolen.

Later on the 24th, Zabriskie posted this note to his 8,495 Twitter followers:

If anyone out there sees anything you think might be mine, let me know. Thanks…DZ

Let’s hope that Zabriskie’s got a robust homeowners insurance policy. Unless those items are recovered, that’s going to be one rather large claim.

* At least he can say he beat Lance.
** According to VeloNews, the journal of record for the cycling world, the stolen statues included: “Hellboy” pistol figurine, “Ash”Army of Darkness, “Tomb Raider” Lara Croft, “The Punisher,” “Alien,” “Ironman” Limited Edition, and a “Gears of War” character.

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The Rich and Famous—and Their Insurance Policies

February 19th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

bags-of-moneyThe average Joe buys insurance to protect his house, car and any other items of value he happens to own.

But mostly, he buys insurance because the law requires it. He can’t buy a house without homeowners insurance and he can’t drive a car—at least lawfully—without auto insurance.

But when it comes to the wealthy, insurance is a whole different matter.

People with money have a lot more to lose than the population in general. For instance, investments like boats, furs and expensive art or antique collections are often irreplaceable—and one incident of damage could result in financial loss the likes of which most of us will never suffer.

Insurance policies of the rich and famous reflect these differences by protecting that valuable, insurable interest.

But the rich don’t just insure possessions; sometimes they insure strange, valuable items like body parts too.

What?? Did you say body parts?

Indeed! Because famous, well-to-do personalities often rely on distinctive physical features to support themselves in the lifestyles to which they become accustomed, multi-million dollar insurance policies fit the bill when it comes to protecting their investment in those famous, svelte legs or well-developed pitching arm.

To read about some of the wacky things the wealthy insure and find out how their insurance needs differ from everyone else’s, get the scoop here.

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Extreme Athletes and Insurance

February 9th, 2009 by Jeb Foster

bmxerEver wonder how gravity-defying daredevils get insurance?

As you might imagine, many health and life insurers balk at offering individual coverage to these Evel Knievel types. Realizing this, a lot of extreme athletes resort to lying about their day jobs and, subsequently, about the cause of their injuries:

“A lot of them have fallen off curbs and hurt themselves,” skateboarder Biker Sherlock told the LA Times. (That, of course, is insurance fraud, which is a big no-no.)

The honest, when they can get covered, must pay incredibly steep rates. A BMX biker referenced in the same LA Times article pays $650 a month. (Multiply that times 12 and you can subtract your retirement.) Still, going without insurance in such a profession would be to tempt a much more expensive fate.

Travel insurance—for the thrill-seeking jet setter.
Rafting in Costa Rica. Skydiving in South Africa. Spelunking in Borneo. If you dabble in extreme sports during your vacations, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re covered in the event of an accident. There’s simply no such thing as a cheap medical evacuation—they run the gamut from ridiculously costly to ruinously expensive.

But check with your health insurance company before you purchase a travel insurance policy—you may or may not retain medical coverage when you leave the country.

The Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, offers some tips for buying travel insurance: “Reading the fine print is essential. For example, some policies will evacuate you to the ‘nearest appropriate hospital’ at the company’s discretion, while better ones provide evacuation to ‘hospital of choice’ at the policyholder’s discretion.”

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners wisely suggests getting a recommendation from a travel agent—they have the most experience with travel insurers and likely have the inside scoop on which ones are reliable.

Photo credit:  http://flickr.com/photos/djenan/

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More on AIG (from marketing director Lori)

September 22nd, 2008 by Penny Hagerman

In times like these…well, have any of us lived though times like these? We are now in the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

I grew up with parents raised during the depression, and it affected everything they did. They abhorred debt, they never left any cookie batter in the bowl to lick out–and they always knew if the bottom dropped out of the economy again, we could all go and live on the farm, eat carrots from the ground and ‘never be hungry again’ (apologies to Gone with the Wind).

I could look at this all culturally, but I’ll keep it to insurance.

I just want to remind everyone that when you read about AIG, it is not personal lines of insurance that were causing the trouble; the crisis stems from a part of the company that provided complicated insurance coverage to complicated risky debts. And from the fact that financial instruments were created (such as credit default swaps and tranched collateralized debt obligations) that are difficult to track or even understand. However, the leaders of those companies creating, selling and buying these types of ‘financial securities’ (oxymoron) must not have had depression-era parents.

AIG’s home, health, life and long-term care insurance companies have operated wisely in the past. They are in the business of being safe, as well as highly regulated. I think the best thing for our country is to put some regulation on the financial markets like we did after the depression. The ‘repeal’ of the Glass-Steagall bill is a good example.

The sad fact for AIG employees is that AIG is losing face–and customer confidence. Insurance business is starting to move away from AIG, according to the Insurance Journal, dated September 22, 2008.

The free market would work so well if people didn’t try to work the system and get richer than the next guy or gal. For a nice set of answers that the less financially informed might ask, check out the Personal Finance section of the Wall Street Journal.

We’ll continue to express our opinions in this blog but, as we face these times, the best solution is to save as much money as you can–and that might be on re-shopping your insurance needs. You could check out some Tips for Homeowners Insurance or Car Insurance Facts. That probably makes more sense than pulling your money market fund out of the bank and putting it under a mattress.

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Specialty Drugs Drive Up Health Insurance Premiums

December 7th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

Health insurance premiums in Massachusetts are expected increase between 8 and 13 percent, driven primarily by the cost of expensive specialty drugs. The premium increases are expected to affect the rest of the country as well. pillz.jpg

According to a recent article by the Associated Press (published by the Insurance Journal, here), specialty drugs accounted for 19 percent–about $40 billion–of pharmaceutical spending last year. Express Scripts, a company that manages prescription programs, estimates that by 2009, that $40 billion figure will inflate to $90 billion, as new drugs and treatments emerge.

Specialty drugs:
Biotechnology treatments involving genetic engineering, unique treatments for rare diseases, cancer medications that have to be administered in medical facilities and other high-cost treatments.

Matthew Connell, the senior director of pharmacy services for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mass., told the Boston Globe, “The specialty drug slice of the pie is growing fast. It’s only about half of one percent of all pharmacy [prescriptions], but it accounts for as much as 13 percent of pharmacy costs.”

According to the AP, insurance companies, have, in the past, cited the rising costs of prescription drugs, higher costs from doctors and imaging technology for the increase in health insurance premiums. This is the first time they’ve included specialty drugs into the contributing factors.

Insures are trying to hold down the cost of health insurance premiums by taking efforts to control the use and cost of specialty drugs, reports the AP. Such efforts include requiring physicians to obtain permission before prescribing specialty drugs and barring the prescription and use of drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Read the full AP report courtesy of the Insurance Journal here.

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Lack of Jockey Insurance Threatens Montana Tracks

November 28th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

A little off-the-beaten-path insurance news today:

According to an AP story (made available today on InsuranceJournal.com), a national company that insured Montana’s jockeys (and no, I’m not talking about underpants) has dropped coverage on all four of the state’s race tracks. The Montana tracks were just four of 19 tracks in the U.S. that lost jockey coverage, said Scot Meader who is the director of the Missoula County Fairgrounds in Montana.

The news has been made especially bittersweet as Montana’s governor recently included $350,000 in the state’s two-year budget for horse racing.

Even if another insurer stepped in to insure the jockeys, chances are the policy premiums would be much too steep. According to the AP, Meader received one quote from a California insurer who put premiums as high as $8,000 to $10,000 per day, compared with $2,000 per race day for this year. Accident deductibles have also jumped, which hits the Missoula track in a soft spot as they’ve had “quite a few jockey injuries and claims in the past five years.”

Horse racing has been approved for 2006 reports the AP, but the state has yet to make a formal decision about the 2007 racing season; the Missoula County Fair Commission has asked Meader to try and secure another jockey insurance provider.

For now, the four Montana tracks will work together to find a jockey insurance provider. In the meantime, the future of Montana horse racing will hang in the balance. Buck Smith, who is chairman of the fair commission, told the AP that come January, “If we’ve exhausted every possibility for jockey insurance and there is none, there is no decision to be made.”

Race lovers can check out the full story courtesy of IJ, here. (And yes, our statistician Peter D. moonlights as a jockey.)

peterhorse.JPG

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Insurance Industry Proposes New Health Plan

November 14th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

chkuppic.JPGA recent poll conducted for the insurance industry found that 80 percent of Americans want Congress to take measures to make healthcare more affordable. This according to a story by WNDU 16 out of South Bend, Indiana.

The insurance industry seems to be responding to said poll, and pitched a plan on Monday which would come with a taxpayer price tag of $300 million. It’s worth it, said Jay Gellert, a member of the policy committee for America’s Health Insurance Plans. And under the proposed plan, the industry says America’s uninsured could have coverage within the next decade. How?

The new plan calls for:

  • Expanded state programs like Medicaid, to cover more children and low-income families, including those that exceed the poverty level but can’t afford health insurance
  • Formation of “universal health accounts” with the government kicking in up to 50 cents for every dollar a low-income family saves
  • A $500 tax credit for low-income families that buy health insurance for their kids
  • $50 billion in state grants to help insure their residents

Sounds pretty good, right?

The clincher: who’s going to foot the $300 billion needed to implement such a plan? The insurance industry doesn’t have any suggestions on how to pay for it, but WNDU reports that insurers still plan to market the plan “aggressively” to the new Congress. And despite the fact that plan proponents don’t yet have all the answers to get the ball rolling, healthcare advocates support the initiative, saying they’re glad to see the insurance industry get involved.

“I think what this initiative does is get us off the dime and stop people from saying this is a problem that’s not solvable,” said Dr. George Benjamin of the American Public Health Association.

Encouraging, indeed.

We’ll keep an eye on this story and post updates here as they come. And, if you’re looking for more resources on finding affordable medical insurance in your state, check out our state-specific insurance articles in our resource center!

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Insurance, Climate Change and Other Light Topics

October 16th, 2006 by Jeb Foster

[Disclaimer: this post could be a little depressing.]

I think climate change is a fascinating subject. I know, I know–it may seem morbid to be fascinated by something that promises to be (and perhaps already is) such a destructive force. But what intrigues me is not the potential devastation, but humankind’s response to this challenge–and on a more specific level, the insurance industry’s response.

Insurance is all about managing risk. You are managing risk when you buy a policy, and insurers are doing the same when they issue one. If the latter party thinks something (or someone) is risky, they charge more–partly because they need to have enough cash on hand when when 16-year-old Johnny totals the family station wagon or when a hurricane comes trundling down Hurricane Alley.

If you believe the science of climate change, it looks like we’re in for a bumpy ride - one that’s fraught with risks, both known and unknown.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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The Insurance Industry, Image and Andre Agassi

September 25th, 2006 by Jeb Foster

Back in the 1990s, recently-retired tennis star Andre Agassi starred in a series of commercials for Canon cameras in which he said, “Image is everything.” The tagline had two meanings–one referring to photo quality, the other to Agassi’s iconoclastic and ill-advised fashion sense.

(If he doesn’t cringe every time he sees himself in a mullet and denim shorts, I’d be really surprised.)

“The insurance industry’s image is still in the mullet and jean shorts stage.”

Image is a tricky thing, and while it’s not everything (unless you’re selling cameras) it is very important. I’d say the insurance industry’s image is still in the mullet and jean shorts stage - meaning, the insurance industry is, image-wise, in pretty bad shape. They’re out of touch.

From anecdotal evidence, I’d say insurers are down there with journalists and lawyers in terms of popular support, battling it out with each other to prevent falling down the list into the area reserved for tobacco company executives and used-car salesmen.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

It doesn’t have to be that way because insurance companies provide an invaluable service: they solve the age-old problem of risk with a remarkably simple and effective solution: they pool and spread it. That’s it.

Without insurance we’d never build houses, drive cars or wrestle anacondas–the risks would be too great. What if hail wrecks my roof? What if one of my dinner guests sues me for tripping on the stairs? We’d never start businesses, either.

The other day, flipping through a magazine, I noticed a full-page Allstate ad that brought up this very notion. Front and center was an image of a guy tip-toeing his way through a morass of banana peels. The headline read, “You probably don’t spend much time think about insurance. But trying doing anything without it.” Clever, right? Without insurance, the risk associated with even mundane daily stuff would be too great; we’d be constantly slipping on banana peels.

I, for one, tend forget this about insurance–and that’s pretty incredible coming from someone who writes about it every day. I, like you, gripe about cutting a check every six months for auto and home insurance, not realizing that I am actually getting something for my money even if I never file a claim–peace of mind in the face of risk.

So here’s a bit of free advice for the unpopular insurance industry: we all need to be reminded why we pay you once or twice a year. It may improve your image a bit.

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9/11 Insurance Losses Total $35.6 Billion

September 22nd, 2006 by Penny Hagerman

As we commemorate the 5th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it’s difficult to process theU.S. Flag.jpg
destruction of human life on the level it occurred that day. It seems we all either know someone who was hurt or killed in the attacks, know someone who knows someone, or–worse yet–were touched by it personally ourselves.

Though the value of human life lost that day can never be truly quantified, these horrendous acts have also cost our country and its citizens billions of dollars in insurance claims. In fact, according to a paper published recently by the Insurance Information Institute (III), $35.6 billion have been paid out in property, life and liability claims as a result. Even more staggering, economic losses in New York City alone have exceeded $90 billion.

Five years after the fact, Insurance industry leaders and public policymakers continue to consider how the underwriting of political risks–particularly international terrorism–is best handled within the insurance and reinsurance sectors.

To find out how these losses have affected the insurance industry as a whole, I highly recommend the III article. You can find it here.

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The Cost of Fraud

September 6th, 2006 by Maribeth Neelis

fraud.jpg The job of sniffing out insurance fraud has gotten a lot more exciting lately as states have begun to treat the crime more seriously using undercover agents and wiretaps to collect evidentiary support.

In New York, the milieu of many a mafia flick and the state with the second highest auto insurance premiums in the nation, they are taking an “organized crime approach.” Everyone likes a good mobster movie; and undercover agents faking illnesses to nab corrupt doctors, lawyers and “silent owners” or sneaking into offices after hours to tap phone lines smacks of Scorsese.

Not only that, it’s proving effective. New York Deputy Attorney General Peter Pope told the Associated Press, “If I’m trying to prove the patient in fact didn’t have the symptoms he was being treated for, the only way to do that is to find real patients or send undercovers into the clinic. The biggest investigations and those with the widest reach occurred when we were listening in with court approval.”

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud reported that many individuals have a lax attitude when it comes to defrauding insurers–one in four Americans say it’s okay for others to make fraudulent claims and one in ten say they would do so if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. So it’s not surprising that insurance fraud is prevalent across all insurance types. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), it costs the industry between $85 and $120 billion annually and each American household $200 to $300 per year.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Seminary Forbids Life Insurance

August 31st, 2006 by Jeb Foster

People have strong opinions about insurance. Mosque.jpg

When it comes to South Asian Islamic clerics’ feelings about life insurance, that’s a bit of an understatement.

According to an Associated Press story, a prominent Islamic seminary in India has denounced the practice of buying life insurance. Clerics at the seminary say it violates Islamic law.

“Life is given by Allah and to insure it or assure it, is a crime in the eyes of Allah,” clerics at the Dar-ul-Uloom seminary told the AP.

The seminary issued its directive on Aug. 7, saying “insurance is not permissible because it is a sort of gambling. Moreover, it also involves interest money which is illegal under Shariat.” (Shariat = Islamic law).

Read the entire story.

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Are Insurers Actually Doing a Heck of a Job?

August 24th, 2006 by Jeb Foster

Terror in the Superdome. “Brownie” asleep at the switch. Reconstruction money going to bottles of Dom Perignon and sexual reassignment surgery. FEMA trailers made of carcinogenic material.

In the year since Katrina, there has been little good news coming from Gulf Coast. That’s either because there hasn’t been much good news to report or, more likely, because bad stories tend to hog the headlines.
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The other day I came across this story from Reuters about how most Gulf Coast residents are actually happy with the way insurers have handled their claims. The story reported on findings from the Insurance Information Institute–an organization Reuters notes is both non-profit and associated with the insurance industry. While I wish the evidence of this happiness came from an independent polling agency and not the Insurance Information Institute, I am confident the data is right on the money. (I don’t mean to question the integrity of the III, but I think the results would have greater impact had they been issued by a polling agency without the word ‘insurance’ in its name.)

According the III, 90 percent of homeowners in Louisiana and Mississippi were satisfied with how insurers handled their claims. That not a small percentage, folks. Further, only 2 percent of Katrina-related homeowner’s claims are in dispute, according to the report.

Clearly insurers are doing something right down there, even though headlines suggest otherwise. Here are a few other possible conclusions from the III’s report:

  • The media is fixated on bad news.
  • Insurers actually aren’t evil and are, in fact, doing a lot of good work.
  • Insurers need to spend more of their giant profits on a PR campaign that highlights their contributions to the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

Here’s the entire III release.

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The “Vespanomics” of “Scooter Nation”

August 7th, 2006 by Jeb Foster

The Denver Post, my city’s major daily, recently ran a feature on the rise of “scooter nation.” Aside from using one too many puns in the headline, the article was an interesting exploration of an urban phenomenon that’s spurred by environmental awareness and old fashioned thriftiness.
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While the environmental benefits of scooters, also called mopeds, can be debated–”I would never discourage anyone from buying a scooter, but you have to be realistic about the environment impact, which really is not much,” a Denver Department of Health official tells the Post–the argument for their thriftiness is airtight.

According to the article, scooters get 85 miles per gallon, making even Toyota Prius drivers burn with envy. Additionally, the Post notes that some scooterists [my term] suspend their car insurance during the warmer, scooter-friendly months. Insurance for scooters costs much less, about $100, according to the article. (Some states don’t require insurance, but I recommend coverage for any activity that involves high speeds, metal and pavement.)

If $3 gas prices have you considering a Vespa or other diminutive motorcycle, make sure to check with your state’s DMV to learn about motor scooter regulation before you put the For Sale sign on your car or suspend your car insurance. Also …

  • Don’t drink and scoot. This includes lattes.
  • Wear a helmet. Buy a cool, expensive helmet if it’ll mean you’re more likely to wear it.
  • Drive defensively. You’re almost as low on the highway food chain as the guy on the ten speed.
  • Again, check with your state’s DMV to see what its scooter restrictions are regarding licensing, registration and insurance.

If you’re looking for an automotive alternative that’s a little less Euro and a little more techno, there is always the Segway, which enables one to steer clear of the gas pump entirely. And Progressive offers specialized Segway insurance.

[Links]:
http://www.vespanomics.com
http://www.segway.com/

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