Insurance: It’s not really about you


(Photo: Cliff Grassmick, AP)
(Photo: Cliff Grassmick, AP)

There must be billions of advertising dollars spent annually by insurance companies, much of it in an attempt to make the company, if not the entire industry, appear caring and kind. They employ either a humorous approach, including Flo on the Progressive ads and those great GEICO spots – some of the best on television in my opinion, or the warm and fuzzy angle. The phrases “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” and “You’re in good hands with Allstate” have been drilled into the consumer to illustrate the human side of insurance; after all, they really do just want to help you, they’re your pals, it’s about you.

Of course sadly that’s not true, neighbours do things for each other out of the kindness of their hearts, not for profit. Insurance is a multi-billion dollar business in North America alone and it didn’t get that way by being kind, no matter what they want you to believe. It’s a for-profit undertaking from the get go.

Of course that’s not true, neighbours do things for each other out of the kindness of their hearts, not for profit

That business face of the insurance industry becomes very apparent if you’ve ever had to make a claim, which can be very frustrating. Where did all that goodwill go, you may well ask? Are these people on my side or not? All those reassuring  words that got me to buy the policy in the first place seem to have evaporated into thin air, just like my barn did in that twister.

Insurance is a two-pronged entity; when they’re asking you to buy coverage they’re your best friend, promising you security and a helping hand. And as long as you’re keeping up your payments they continue to foster this warmhearted relationship with free calendars and the like. Then something happens and you need to make a claim, get back some of that money you paid them, that’s when you encounter the second, and ugly prong, the “to hell with what you need, we’re here to make money” prong. What happened to those good hands? Isn’t it about me?

At times of natural disasters these stories are front and center. In 1998 the Northeast of North America experienced a huge ice storm. Trees and branches came down taking electrical cables with them, hydro pylons crumpled from the weight of ice, much of the province of Quebec was plunged into darkness for days. Homes and cars were damaged, freezers didn’t freeze food costing waste, and many people took nasty spills on the ice-covered sidewalks. I have a hunch the insurance companies hired extra staff to man the telephones during this time, no doubt giving them a crash course in answering the calls not by saying “Hello, how may I help you”, but rather “Nope, whatever it is we probably don’t cover it” shortened during peak hours to a mere “No”.

Great, they reply, but your policy never covered (insert problem here), didn’t you read the 92 pages of small print in your policy?

But I paid my premiums on time every month you say. Great, they reply, but your policy never covered (insert problem here), didn’t you read the 92 pages of small print in your policy?

Unfortunately with ridiculously high prices including medical costs insurance is a necessary evil. The old “Women: can’t live with them, can’t live without them” adage applies to insurance as well. And bear in mind, it never was about you!

MeDCMontreal is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that. a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and Freans and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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