October 2003

Insurance companies offer nothing tangible

By Galen Larson

I was in a poker game once with a bunch of hard cases but holding my own when a royal flush showed up in my hand. I bet heavily and exposed my hand to rake in the pot.

"Whoa!" said this huge guy and he laid down 4-8-10-Jack and a 2. I said, "What's that?" He said, "A gobbledygook. It beats anything."

I let it go and it wasn't long before I had a 4-8-10-Jack and 2 in my hand.

I cried, "Pot's mine! I have a gobbledy-gook!"

He said, "Sorry, only one per game."

That situation reminds me of the way insurance companies are always changing the rules on us. Insurance seems to be the only corporation that produces no tangible product. What do we receive when we make our purchase? Usually a folder in different comforting hues containing many paragraphs of gobbledy- gook put together by lawyers that have spent years researching ways not to let any of the money you paid in become accessible to you.

The companies shamelessly use our money to lobby for laws that make dealing with them compulsory, as in the case of automobile insurance. If you don't buy it, you break the law.

Now, they have persuaded our legislators to pass a law - lobbied for by them - that took away our no-fault automobile insurance and replaced it with something called "tort." That means that, if we are injured in an automobile wreck, we may have to employ an attorney to get our medical costs paid. Nowhere in my policy — home, health or auto — can I find any reference stating that I may have to go to a court of law to collect what is rightfully mine.

I at one time was convinced by an insurance broker to be an agent. I realize now that I must have come across as a devious person. I was given books, charts and educational brochures to instruct and train me in that deception.

After two weeks of study and a myriad of questions, my friend told me my standards would not allow me to be a qualified salesperson. I found that on life insurance the percentages were manipulated in favor of the insurance companies. They used scare tactics to persuade people to increase their insurance.

In this I have first-hand knowledge in the settlement of a claim. They wanted to cancel me even with them owing me money. Another person might have knuckled under, thereby losing the money owed him. I was told to believe that when a claim was settled I was taking money from other clients. They never mentioned the million-dollar salaries and stock options paid the CEOs. Nor did they bring to my attention the losses incurred by dabbling in the stock market or overloading the erection of high-end buildings with low-rent returns.

Now, don't blame your agent. He is doing his best to provide you a service in case of a catastrophe and has only limited knowledge given to him by his company. He has children to send to college, house and car payments, and insurance of his own to buy. It's the board, CEOs and inhouse lawyers that lobby our elected officials (very few of whom are informed as to the workings of this pyramid scheme) that are to blame. Most anything one purchases outside of insurance can be returned if you don't use it and you can receive the full amount of the purchase price.

Not so with insurance. Even though you never had a claim, if you choose to return it, a portion is subtracted from the initial payment. Kind of a crap game - you bet on the seven and get crap, and they keep the money.

Now they want four more aces in the deck - not for us, but for them. Because of the drought we are told that we have to cut our trees around our homes. Trees may be an integral part of the decor of the home site, to say nothing about shade, but if one fails to do this they can cancel the policy.

How convenient - we pay in good faith, taking the risk that they could go out of business, but when they're drawing to an inside straight they want to change the rules.

My wife and I had supposedly the best health insurance we could buy and were paying into it for 50 years, with the premiums always increasing. Several times the company was swallowed up by a larger one. We also paid in the small required amount to Medicare and Medicaid for a much shorter time.

When my wife had a stroke, that Medicare to which we paid the least had to pay the most, and the high-end company with its many promises only paid 80 percent of the 20 percent that Medicare did not pay. Sometimes they paid nothing because we didn't use the total of the deductible.

I was under the impression that pyramid schemes were unlawful. Well, lo and behold, the insurance companies of America are perpetrating that scheme on us.

Galen Larson lives on 360 acres he has donated to the Wildland Trust west of Cortez.