Saturday, April 05, 2008

It's All Covered

A Lesson to Us All
A Lesson to Us All
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
We owned a house, two cars, a boat, and a medical practice. To participate in the modern U.S. economy as owners and responsible parties for these assets, we had approximately two dozen separate insurance policies. DrC spent the last month attempting to disentangle the mess, replacing it with insurance appropriate for a family of cruising sailors. The entire process produced a sense of befuddled frustration similar to that induced by a shot of whiskey, three beers, and a two-by-four to the back of the head combined in quick succession.

Itemized separately, it felt like death by a thousand cuts. Malpractice, of course, was the single largest expense. I need say little to the average American regarding the absurdity of our legal system and the horror it is wrecking our medical system. While not as bad as Obstetrics, the insurance burden placed on your average eye doctor is considerably more per year than many of his patients earn in the same period of time.

But after malpractice, we had employment insurance, unemployment insurance, and a life insurance policy in case DrC became dead and hence unemployed. We also had property insurance for property, business insurance for business, and disability insurance in case someone dropped into the office with a machete and cut off one of the doctor's hands.

For the household, we of course had auto insurance, home owner's insurance, mortgage insurance, more property insurance, and medical insurance. Then we bought the boat and were required to get boat insurance, more mortgage insurance, and more life insurance in case DrC died again. Then there was additional life insurance in case I died, and a bit of liability insurance in case one of our tenants died while frying up a few veggies on the stove upstairs. At one point, it seemed quite reasonable to conclude that the kids would conspire to off their parents as our demise and the immediate liquidation of all these policies would yield about the same as an X Prize without the trouble of inventing a super green car or a moon rover.

Getting rid of all these policies is astonishingly difficult to do. When we signed up for all this crap, all we had to do was prove we had a pulse and a bank account. Sometimes we didn't even have to prove the part about the heart beat. Telling them to turn off the accounts, however, inevitably required a notarized receipt written in a combination of blood and fairy dust to prove we no longer (a) wanted the insurance or (b) had the item that was originally being insured. Since in many cases, the insurance was on DrC himself, it's been difficult to prove we don't have him.

Moreover, whoever originally signed up is the one who has to turn off the spigot. Despite the frighteningly pushy community property laws in Washington state, it is impossible for DrC to close an account I opened or for me to turn off something he opened. Credit card companies, by the way, are even worse than insurance companies. At one point I found myself telling a very nice but incredibly stubborn sales representative that I was never going to allow my husband to open another credit card account again ever so their insistence that they had to speak to him before they shut the account was moot. My volume I fear went up at the part where I told her that her company would never see a g* d* thin dime from my checking account so the entire lot of them could go to hell. And oh by the way send the statements care of /dev/null.

I'd like to say we are free of all this insurance nonsense, but we can not escape entirely. Marinas and Mexico require boat insurance. This is insanely expensive and covers absolutely nothing. Our boat in Canada and Mexico, for example, will run us roughly $3800 next year. What it doesn't cover is a list so much longer than what it does that it took me a good deal of effort to define a scenario in which they would actually ever pay out. It appears valid only if we manage somehow to sink the boat within 10 miles of shore on a calm day with two healthy, sober adults, no other boat within sight, and no wildlife larger than plankton. On the other hand, the policy is oddly enough designed that if we get advance, written permission from Lloyd's, we are covered in the event a terrorist decides to self-immolate on the deck.

One really fine piece of news is that travelers’ insurance is so many light years more reasonable than medical insurance in the United States that I can only fall prey to Michael Moore's assertion that we have the worst “bang for the buck” medical system in the world. As long as you do not get medical or dental care in the U.S., a fairly decent catastrophic plan for a family of 5 runs only $200/month. That's roughly half what we're paying now. And the travelers’ policy has odd but useful little side-bennies: lost luggage allowance, bodies shipped home, and hotel stays if our plane is delayed. Interestingly, travelers’ insurance does pay for property lost to a terrorist attack as long as the attack does not involve nuclear devices. So we need to avoid that.

I'm also thinking that getting advance, written permission to be attacked by a terrorist might be a little challenging. These companies never answer the phone.

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