Like a lot of people in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area, I found myself without power for part of the weekend thanks to the Noah’s Ark downpour we all experienced. My wife and son and I spent long hours bailing out our flooded basement and carrying what we could to safety.
And of course, we called our insurance company. They were, pardon the pun, swamped.
Eventually they got back to us, telling us when an adjuster would be out to inspect the damage. While we waited, we decided to read through our insurance policy. Very depressing. We have a standard, boilerplate policy with one or two special amendments. The standard policy seems to consist of a mindnumbingly long list of disasters that can occur to or in your home.
And virtually none of them is covered.
Let me repeat that: Almost none of the many disasters is covered.
How can that be, I asked myself as I kept reading my policy, over and over, looking for a clarification that would set my mind at ease. How can that be? After all the insurance folks have wonderful, heart-warming TV commercials presenting their officials in action, helping people in the midst of catastrophe. They have feel-good slogans such as:
“Better coverage for what’s important to you.”
“Like a good neighbor . . .”
“You’re in good hands . . . “
“On your side.”
A careful re-reading of my policy (okay, it was actual six or seven compulsive re-readings) showed me that the insurance company had insured me against water damage in one and only one instance: water damage in case of a fire. So if the firefighters soak my home in an effort to put out the blaze, I’m covered for water damage. Any other cause: Fuggedaboudit.
The slogans above might make any reasonable person think the insurance companies are in the “we care for you” business. Not true at all. They are in the “we keep as much of your money as possible” business.
Bad as this is when you’re facing disasters, it’s even worse in the one area of insurance that almost all of us — no matter if we own homes or cars or boats or whatever — will assuredly need. You guessed it: health care.
Sooner or later we all need medical attention, and somehow, someway, we have to pay for it. And it’s one of the reasons we need some sort of reform out of Washington on insurance — so that everyone can have access to health care insurance, and therefore healthcare.
This is not by way of saying “Obamacare” is the best of all possible options. It’s not. Not even close. But it is a major step forward over the status quo and will make it possible for many more people to have insurance and health care. And we’ll have decades to tinker with our national health care policy, hopefully improving it. (In all honesty, I have to admit since Congress will be doing lots of the tinkering, there is the serious possibility that the policy will get worse. But I’m an optimist.)
Saying goodbye to the macro issue of national health care policy and returning to the micro frustrations of one guy and his flooded basement — not exactly sure what I’m going to do about my lovely, caring insurance company. Maybe the humiliation caused by this blog will be enough to make the folks at insurance headquarters sit up straight and do right by their customers.
Then again, maybe not.
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PS – check out my story on Forbes.com, “Lead Like Ike in the Battle of the Bulge” at: http://tinyurl.com/yd6lovb.