Archive for October, 2013

Hello, my name is Karl, and I love insurance. (group: Welcome, Karl)

I’m a self-described insurance geek, and I have been for years. My family has learned to not involve me in the planning of family events, as I enjoy predicting exactly what will go wrong during activities. I call it risk management, they call it irritating.

In the pie charts of projected ACA coverage, one slice really bothers me. I have always wondered who the people in the “Still No Insurance” slice are. What would push someone to NOT have insurance? I’m enough of an insurance geek and risk manager I just couldn’t fathom it. Fresh data came out on September 30, 2013 from Gallup: they surveyed more than 5000 uninsured Americans of various types, and asked whether they plan to get insurance or pay the fine for not doing so. 65 percent said they would get health insurance, 25 percent said they wouldn’t.

I wanted to find out who these risk scofflaws are that reject everything I hold dear. I didn’t have to look far – I found an example behind the counter at my local camera store. The head cashier has always been very cordial and efficient, an apparently intelligent person with a basic, professional mindset. Or so I thought.

I was wearing my dress shirt with “Gregory & Appel Insurance”. She overheard me talking with the owner about the opening of the Marketplaces and how it may affect their options. She pointed to the logo on my shirt and announced “I will never get health insurance, no matter what they say. I’m healthy, I don’t go to doctors and I certainly don’t need insurance. Not gonna do it.” Wow. That stopped me in my tracks.

Maybe I’m too close to it. Maybe I know too much. I spend hours each day keeping up with the flood of details involved in constructing the health insurance delivery systems. I work on crafting explanations for business, and communication materials to help the buying public understand the subject. I felt all of that crumbling as I faced an actual insurance denier.
I tried a question. “What if you get hit by a bus, and are injured for life. What then?” “My family will take care of me. We take care of our own. Besides, I’m very careful, and won’t get hit,” she said.

“What about auto insurance. Do you believe in that?” “No. I only have the minimum, and wouldn’t have that if I could get away with it. Just like my health, I never have accidents.” Her voice was rising in pitch.

“I sense you’re angry about all of this,” I noted. “Where does that anger come from?” “Why should those of us who are healthy and safe and good drivers help the ones who aren’t? Why should I help pay for the health claims of sick people, if I never get sick?” I asked if she might feel different if she was 50 and asthmatic, rather than 30 and no chronic conditions. “Ask me then. I don’t intend to be sick.”

“Okay, I get it. You’re independent. Do you consider yourself a part of a society that helps each other, or a nation of one?”
“Since I don’t want help, and I don’t need help, I guess I think all Americans should take care of themselves. We shouldn’t need to help each other. I think insurance is just a scam in general, as is welfare.”

Ah. A fiercely independent citizen who resents helping others. We’re seeing a lot of those these days, and it may explain a lot about the slice of the pie that will still be on the outside of the health insurance system in the future. I had one final thought, just to confirm my observations.
“So, am I correct that you would make a poor lifeguard? You wouldn’t want to get wet to save a drowning stranger?” She paused, thought, shrugged, and said “I Guess so. They should have learned to swim. Not my problem, that’s not a job I’d ever take.”

About one in six Americans is without health insurance. It will be interesting to see how that number trends as the marketplaces open and the ACA comes on line. I will be asking that clerk about her status and insurance outlook every time I visit, and will report back if any wisdom emerges over time.

I’m optimistic about most things, but…


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