Natural Disasters

A Lesson on Insurance, Thanks to Hurricane Ida | by Godwin | ILLUMINATION | Sep, 2021

Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash

Hurricane Ida swept through New Jersey a few weeks ago. I wasn’t concerned when the rains started because it rarely does severe damage in my area, and my heart goes out to those who over the years have endured the ravages of the weather not just hurricanes.

I have always been touched by the plight of those who, through no fault of their own, are made victims by what we can only call natural disasters. Like many millions of Americans, I have seen the aftereffects of the storms: the wrecked homes, vehicles, and worse yet the injuries and loss of life. As it often goes, we see those who survived at shelters and some in hospitals. When some of these folks are interviewed, we hear their gut-wrenching sorrow at the losses they are suddenly faced with. Some cry out for aid and while some do not, their need is obvious. Since this is America, we expect FEMA and the states will do what they can for these people-tagged victims. People like me then say at least those insured will at least have aid from their coverage in addition to what the federal and state governments provide. This usually sets our minds at ease over the plight of our fellow citizens. Little did I know I was soon to get a small taste of what they go through.

From afar, it always seems like the system works. Surely it works right? Hurricane Ida soon set me straight on this issue once and for all! Like many have discovered, the insurance we are mandated by the government to obtain despite the promise of coverage when needed, does not cover much! As the nearby Raritan River overflowed its banks and crossed highway 18, police and emergency services went door to door telling everyone in the path of the flood to evacuate. By the time we were aware of the flood, the basement car park of my apartment building was already flooded and the power went out. We were provided coaches that took us to a nearby shelter. We sat there hoping for updates that would have us back in the building later on in the day. That was not to be so we had to get a hotel room for a few nights.

I heard someone say recently that health insurance is not supposed to cover your healthcare costs. At the time I asked my wife this great philosophical question “Then what is the point of paying for it?” I have often asked myself this question concerning insurance for any purpose. It seems to me that insurance companies are only too eager to assure you coverage for a monthly premium and even a deductible when you need it but you have coverage. However, when the time comes for you to make a claim you suddenly have to prove your need even in the face of glaring evidence from the news and the authorities. You need to send as many pictures as possible and any other proof that will help your case otherwise, they will either reject your claim on some technicality or pay you as little as possible. I find it interesting that you do not need to prove you might need coverage. The fact is, they assure you will when they need you to signup. When it comes time to keep that promise, the story evolves.

Suddenly all the legal terms come out. Now they will point out every word in the policy. They tell you the coverage you purchase is not sufficient in this case. Just like my own renter’s insurer, USAA, was quick to let me know when I put in a claim after being evacuated and having to stay in a hotel. They said I was not covered for anything involving flooding, and I should consider upgrading my coverage. I learned later from the online community wall in my building a fair number of people had received the same rejection from their insurance providers.

I should point out that it is not only renter’s insurance that they avoiding paying on. I had a similar experience with Humana. They had sent me mail and emails concerning dental coverage for veterans at a great rate. I was skeptical of such offers but I felt Humana might just surprise me on this one. So, I called and spoke to an agent who was very friendly and assured me I would have the coverage I needed. I mentioned my insurance at that point, Aetna, did not cover much of the cost of root canal I would need but had held off because of the cost. She even checked and informed me it would be covered and I would get a discount that would reduce my deductible further. I signed up and went to the dentist only to be informed that I would have to wait 6 months to be covered under the policy. After 6 months, I went back to the dentist who contacted Humana, only to be told that they would not cover this same procedure. I was taken aback and the dentist told me this isn’t new. They get you to sign up but you can’t use the coverage till you have paid into it for 6 months and at that point, they only cover routine cleaning and checkups. With Aetna, my bill was just under $1000 and my dentist was kind enough to give me a discount that brought the bill down further.

I was upset that this insurance company would take advantage of me this way and wondered how many other veterans have been fleeced like this of the little they earn to be refused coverage. I called the number the Humana agent gave me and asked to speak to her and, no surprise, she was unavailable. Subsequent calls to her number always went to voicemail and I left messages. In the end, I never got to speak to that agent but I canceled the policy.

I ask myself now why the state and federal governments allow citizens to be deceived and robbed blind when in need. There are so many cases where Americans have been taken advantage of by their insurance company and the Justice Department does nothing? If a company gets away with this over time it becomes a free for all which I daresay is where we find ourselves. If our elected officials are not complicit in this, why has it not changed? If only a few are lobbied by the insurance companies can the others not stand up for their constituents? If Congress was forced to use the same coverage most of us have, I think healthcare would improve. Can you imagine a world where politicians needed their insurance company to cover flood damage and the insurance company wriggled out of paying?

At what point will we have laws that protect citizens from insurance companies? Is it impossible for Congress to protect Americans from insurers? Surely, it cannot be impossible to have insurers make promises they must keep and they would still make money. After all, if it wasn’t profitable who would establish an insurance company? There has to be a government for the people that will stand up for the people at some point.

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