Friday, August 10, 2007

Mutual Of Misery

It's a dismaying paradox. You buy insurance hoping you'll never need it, and the insurance companies sell it to you hoping the same thing.

LIKE A BAD NEIGHBOR. In yet another analysis surprising nobody, Bloomberg News finds U.S. insurance companies making mad money and stiffing policyholders:
Insurers often pay 30 percent to 60 percent of the cost of rebuilding a damaged home — even when carriers assure homeowners they're fully covered, according to thousands of complaints with state insurance departments and civil court cases.
Bloomberg cites the particularly disgusting example of Allstate, which hired the consulting firm of McKinsey and Company to improve its efficiency:
For 57 years, Allstate has advertised its employees as the "Good Hands People," telling customers they will be well cared for in times of need.

The McKinsey slides had a new twist on that slogan. One [PowerPoint] slide McKinsey prepared for Allstate was entitled "Good Hands or Boxing Gloves."

When a policyholder files a claim, first make a low offer, McKinsey advised Allstate. If a client accepts the low amount, Allstate should treat the person with good hands, McKinsey said. If the customer protests or hires a lawyer, Allstate should fight back.
The consultant made other suggestions:
One McKinsey slide displayed at the Kentucky hearing featured an alligator with the caption "Sit and Wait." The slide says Allstate can discourage claimants by delaying settlements and stalling court proceedings.

By postponing payments, insurance companies can hold money longer and make more on their investments — and often wear down clients to the point of dropping a challenge.

McKinsey's advice helped spark a turnaround in Allstate's finances. The company's profit rose 140 percent to $4.99 billion in 2006, up from $2.08 billion in 1996.
McKinsey isn't talking about the work it did for Allstate. Allstate isn't talking about it either. Your Lightning Round editor's personal experience with them is limited to a sky-high car insurance quote.

But we can safely gather thousands of Allstate customers think the "good hands people" need their knuckles rapped... or cuffed. Or maybe they need a piece of the rock.

PAY TO STAY. Students in two Tucson, Arizona school districts will get $25 a week to stay in school under a pilot program financed by a nonprofit organization, Youth Education Security Inc.

From the Arizona Daily Star:
"A student who might have had to choose a job over going to school might now be given the hope to stay in school because of this program," [YES head Lou Barsky] said. "I'm not trying to say $25 is $1 million, but that's not what is important. What's important is the hope we're giving to students who are living in poverty."
But mostly they're giving them money, with bonuses for good grades. But will it be enough of a motivator? Twenty-five dollars a week breaks down to five bucks a day, less than minimum wage and way less than the minimum pay at In-N-Out.

DOING THEIR PATRIOTIC DUTY. An anti-war activist asked GOP presidential wanna-be Mitt Romney why none of his sons are serving in Iraq. He says it's because they're busy serving their Dad's presidential campaign... or his ego.

From the AP:
"The good news is that we have a volunteer Army and that's the way we're going to keep it," Romney told some 200 people gathered in an abbey near the Mississippi River that had been converted into a hotel. "My sons are all adults and they've made decisions about their careers and they've chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard."

He added: "One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."
One of them is traveling through all 99 counties in Iowa in an RV. As Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis noted, there's no roadside bombs to annoy them there.

SEEING THE LIGHT. GE developed the bug light. Now Intelligent Optical Systems is out with the barf light. It's called the "LED Incapacitator," and Homeland Security wants them.

From Fox News:
The handheld device using light-emitting diodes to emit super-bright pulses of light at rapidly changing wavelengths, causing disorientation, nausea and even vomiting in whomever it's pointed at.

"There's one wavelength that gets everybody," says IOS President Bob Lieberman. "Vlad [IOS top scientist Vladimir Rubtsov] calls it 'the evil color.'"
Right now the prototype is too heavy to carry around all day, but it's a lot easier than trying to deploy old tuna-fish sandwiches.

BACK TO YOU. They weren't testing that barf light on a British TV anchor. Kenny Toal got sick at the desk while suffering from food poisoning.

From the Daily Mail:
Moments before they went live at six o'clock, Toal picked up a waste paper bin and vomited, before vowing to carry on with the show.

He managed to read the introduction into the lead story but then continued to be sick during a film report. Co-presenter Pam Royle took over the news-reading and battled on herself, despite sitting next to her retching co-anchor.
He finally had to leave during sports.
Toal said: "Five minutes before the show I felt really sick. Two minutes before the show I asked for a bucket.

"I managed to hold on while on-screen but I was very sick during news reports. I was starting to put [sports anchor] Chris [Ford] off his stride so had to call it a day."
The culprit? His mum's cheese pie, which he says he left out too long to defrost.

And to think of the stuff we've left out around the newsroom: cookies, donuts, birthday cake, brownies, leftovers from Monday's noon show cooking segment, Subway sandwiches, hot wings, stale pizza, cupcakes, pie, industrial-strength coffee, ubiquitous spring water... why are we still alive?

No comments: