Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Posts tagged ‘insurance’

Post-existing climate conditions

According to the NY Times, insurers have been taking advantage of climate-change fears to raise prices for flood insurance. Now that the presidential election has conclusively proved that the greenhouse effect is a Chinese hoax to make Americans look stupid less productive, I think the Congress needs to move beyond minor defensive measures like abandoning the Paris accord, and move instead to aggressively defend Americans’ God-given right to build decadent structures in flood zones: Just as health insurers are now prohibited from inquiring about or taking account of “pre-existing conditions”, flood insurers need to be prohibited from taking account of (hoax) research about “post-existing” (future) climate conditions in determining flood insurance prices. Prices may be based only on past flood records.

This can be combined into a single consumer-rights bill with Mike Pence’s initiative to ban life insurance premiums that discriminate against tobacco users. As Pence wrote in 2000,

Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill… Nine out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer.

What’s all this hysteria for? Smoking is even safer than Russian Roulette. (Five out of six players don’t get shot!)

Social climber

What is it about rock climbing that makes it such a useful synecdoche for enjoying your life? In an article about an unusual case about a girl whose lawsuit against a sexually abusive teacher foundered when her claims of “loss of enjoyment of life” seemed to be contradicted by a happy Facebook page, I was struck by the comment

Melissa’s account was mostly locked to outsiders, but some pictures were visible: Melissa hanging out with her boyfriend, Melissa working at a veterinary hospital, Melissa rock climbing, Melissa out drinking with friends… Nor did it support her claim of “loss of enjoyment of life,” which one judge has defined as the loss of “watching one’s children grow, participating in recreational activities, and drinking in the many other pleasures that life has to offer.” Rock climbing is a recreational activity; drinking with friends is one of life’s pleasures, after all. Last month, the court ordered Melissa to hand over every photograph, video, status update, and wall message ever posted on her Facebook accounts so that the school district may search for more clues that Melissa is secretly thriving.

And that reminded me of an article many years ago in Harper’s about American casualty adjustors, whose job it is to put a price on someone’s life for purposes of wrongful death suits.

I ask them to evaluate my worth, and they tell me that outdoorsy people are worth more than people like me, who stay home and read. “People have no sympathy for somebody who sits alone on his couch, drinks beer, eats food, and is a load,” Ed says.

“That’s why nobody likes me,” says George. “It’s how sympathetic you are. People go, ‘He rock climbed,’ you know. `This guy enjoyed life. He was out there doing things.’ You cherish life more if you are interacting with it.”

Compute the interest

Another comment based on Sharon Ann Murphy’s wonderful book on 19th century life insurance in the US: She describes an 1852 case in which the American Mutual Insurance Company tried to renege on a claim, where a preëxisting condition was found in an autopsy.

Not surprisingly, the jury sided with the beneficiaries; they “were out thirteen minutes, just long enough to compute the interest” on the original claim.

Indeed, the verdict is not surprising. What is most surprising, however, is that the jury computed the interest. I wonder how likely it is that a jury of twelve today would include even a single person capable of computing compound interest.

The 25th state?

Canadians used to accuse Americans of plotting to make them the 51st state — indeed, if all of Canada were to be a single US state it would only be the second largest by population. (I remember an article a decade ago or so that suggested that they talk so much about it, it must be their secret desire.)

In the book Investing in Life, about life insurance in 19th century US, there is a reference to the caution of William Bard, first president of New York Life Insurance and Trust Company, in insuring lives lived in climates potentially less salubrious than that of New York City.

For example, while Bard believed the climate of Halifax, Nova Scotia to be “as favorable to life as that of any other state” and consequently appointed an agent there in 1833, he was much more cautious about risks in western New York or the midwestern states.

World’s Greatest Healthcare, ctd.

Addendum to my earlier post on US health care. Impressions from a friend’s trip, thankfully not an emergency in the end, to the emergency room of Children’s Hospital in Oakland:

  1. It’s not just the general practitioners in the US who are not very competent. So, a child being examined to exclude appendicitis is given a popsicle — presumably for hydration and glucose — by the intern. A bit later, he wants to give her IV fluids. Why can’t she just drink water? In case it is appendicitis, she shouldn’t take anything orally. Oh yes, I probably shouldn’t have given her that popsicle… I’m sure the microneurosurgeons in the US are first-rate, though. (more…)

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