Misadventures in Insurance
Swapping morbid stories and statistics is a reliably good way of having a conversation with an insurance person.
Monday, September 5th 2011, 5:00AM
by Russell Hutchinson
Everything from proposal forms where the applicant declares they have an allergy to dog sperm (how did they find that out?) to the impact on mortality of spinal damage - that's useful for knowing how long a claimant for total and permanent disablement benefits might need to be supported (after taking into account deaths from the injury itself, they have a total of 58% of the life expectancy they would have had).
But the best, or rather worst, statistics that I saw recently was a set of mortality risk factors supplied by the Ministry of Health.
These were interesting because they are New Zealand statistics - so they apply to your clients - and also because they were numbers of actual deaths attributable to each risk factor between 1996 and 1998.
No airy fairy percentages here: real people who died, and why. Some of them killed in the car (about 500), and some killed by not getting out and about enough - and other by getting out and about too much (unsafe sex).
All brought together in a fascinating chart in a Ministry of Health report titled "The Health of New Zealand".
You can look it up but I will share some highlights.
The worst factor, smoking tobacco, contributed 5000 deaths in the period.
The eighth, inadequate fruit and vegetable intake, just 1,600. Which shows your dinner plate is a far more dangerous place than a holiday weekend passing lane.
Of the top eight, seven were largely factors you get to control.
The misadventure piece was the most shocking - "adverse in-hospital care events" helped 1,500 people to move on.
This is a terrible statistic. I began to reflect - where are the blanket TV advertising campaigns?
Where are the safety Nazis patrolling the hospital wards? Where is the outrage?
Sharing this with another insurance person he told me of several other reports I should look up. One had case studies, this one is non-fatal: A man woke up from his operation to find, unexpectedly his arm in plaster.
Can you imagine the terror? You might wonder whether they had performed the right operation, you might conduct a quick check around other parts of your body to make sure you are still all there.
Speaking of horror, one report writes about "Efficient Levels of Negligence and Misadventure" and relates seriously how incentives need to be used to improve on these.
But for the insurance salesperson you may be more interested in the impact, not the policy issues.
The thought to remember is this - clients will want the peace of mind that comes from being able to afford excellent care (medical insurance) and have financial resources to call on nomatter what happens (Trauma, Income Protection).
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