By Mark Goldwich
If information is power, then information shared is more powerful, and large groups wielding information are the most power of all. For those who read my posts, it’s no secret that the insurance industry is a business that sets out to take as much money from policyholders as possible, in the hopes that it will never have to pay any of it back. To be quite honest, policyholders themselves actually hope they never have to use what they have paid for in the first place. But when they do need it they don’t want or expect to have to jump through a number of bureaucratic hoops to get paid.
In a lot of ways the insurance industry is a lot like the casino industry. If you have ever gone to Las Vegas, then you know what I mean. Vegas offers games and sets the rules and the odds so that every wager favor the house. The insurance company like the casinos accepts a little bit of your money at the time it takes on the risk of having to cover a loss at some future date. But the odds of having to pay off have more to do with the fine print in the contract (i.e. The Rules), or the interpretation of those rules when the player (i.e. The Policyholder) wins.
Rule #1: The Rules are Subject to Change
|Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org|
The thing is, the insurance industry has in essence turned the entire game on its head by making the policyholders into gamblers. The industry has become the house that in essence controls all therules. Every time the insurance industry has to pay a claim, they look at the risk involved. If they don’t like the odds, they change the rules of the game, or the odds of losing, or the maximum payout, or all of these – without changing your cost to play. Imagine what would happen at the twenty-one table if in the course of the game the pit boss announced that blackjack paid even money. Have you ever seen a riot in a casino? Yet the insurance industry does this all the time. You pay the same to “play”, and they pay out less if you “win”. Pretty good deal for the house, right?
Sometimes though, the insurance industry goes even further in using their clout to change the law. It’s a very real possibility that the law will change if the insurance company feels they are taking on too much risk. And the greater the clout that insurance industry lobbyists have at their disposal, the more one-sided the game has become. That’s the bad news for consumers.
The good news is that the insurance industry does have a few vulnerabilities. With all the information available on the internet, the world has become much more transparent. Like Jordan Zimmerman once noted, “A tsunami of angry consumers is a disaster, too. And if your business model is pissing off consumers, it needs to change, quickly, even if — especially if — the government owns your company.”
Unfortunately, the government doesn’t typically own insurance companies, but they do regulate them. On the other hand, insurance companies have powerful lobbyists, who spend big money to have the ear of lawmakers. The problem is that lobbyists are sometimes involved in crafting new insurance laws, which again directly benefits the insurance companies.
So what can you do? You can get involved. There is no way to bring about change if consumers just sit back and idly accept everything the insurance companies do to them. Arm yourself with knowledge, and be ready to challenge the insurance companies when they tilt the rules yet further to their advantage. Let your Congressman or woman know that you aren’t going to stand idly by. The only way to effect change is by banding together. Be aware of high profile cases where insurance companies try to abuse their power and falsely deny claims they should rightfully be paying, and make other people aware as well. The same holds true when new legislation is being enacted, or when existing legislation is being amended. Be aware, be engaged, and be involved with others who are aware and engaged.
Carefully vet the candidates you are considering voting into office. Do some research and find out if your candidate is connected in any way to the insurance industry. If so, you may want to reconsider. A candidate connected to the insurance industry may be looking to line their own pockets, and not really looking out for you, just like the insurance company that you think is on your side, but is actually fighting against you to change the law and keep from ever having to pay on any claims.
If you feel you are alone, or don’t know where to start, groups like United Policyholders are on your side. In their own words, they don’t take money from insurance companies. That’s a good sign that they are on your side. And they are a non-profit organization, which also suggests that they are trying to actually help, and not just be another organization with its hand out.
But, they need your support. Visit United Policyholders at www.UpHelp.org, and find out how you can help. You can register with them to get up to date information on what’s happening in the insurance industry. They have tons of information, tools and resources. And you can donate so that United Policyholders has working capital to continue its efforts to empower you as a policyholder. And just for the record, I am in no way affiliated with United Policyholders. As an insurance consumer that happens to be hyper-aware of this industry, I find this to be an organization worthy of mention here.
As we have learned from the insurance industry itself, they win because they make the rules. Well, the truth is, there is strength in numbers. But we can only win if we only stick together and fight the insurance industry every time they try to change the rules to their favor. We can only hope to level the playing field by banding together. So register today and get involved.
You can also get in touch with state and national public adjusting groups. You will find us on the social media sites and blogs. These provide access to industry professionals and information that could help you or someone you know, whether to fight for your rights on an insurance claim, or to learn more about a politician or upcoming legislation.
You may not see it, or hear much about it, but one thing is certain, the battle is being fought right in your own backyard. You can continue to look the other way, and hope you are not affected, or you can help defend yourself, and your neighbors, before we are all dealt a losing hand.
Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.