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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Winning the Insurance Game

Can’t afford to live with it, can’t live without it: That’s how far too many people feel when it comes to the subject of insurance. in fact, consumer dissatisfaction with the insurance marketplace is at an all time high. People are frustrated and feel impotent in the face of high prices, complicated insurance jargon intended to confuse rather than enlighten, and regulation that often is controlled by the regulated and which seems designed to protect powerful insurance financial interests rather than to protect the individual insurance policy holder.

Happily, it doesn’t have to be that way. Consumers can exercise effective power in the marketplace and in the process save themselves hundreds perhaps even, thousands of dollars a year, while at the same time, protecting their families with an effective insurance umbrella. It is to bring this message of hope to insurance consumers that. Wesley J. Smith and I have written a new book

entitled, WINNING THE INSURANCE GAME: The Complete Consumer’s Guide to Saving Money.

Here are some money saving and consumer empowering tips which can help you outfox those in the industry who would try to saddle you with a bad deal:

— SHOP AROUND: Believe it or not, some competitive forces are still at work in the insurance marketplace which smart consumers can utilize to avoid serious ripoffs and save themselves money. By shopping around among independent insurance agents who represent many companies and those working for brand name companies who only sell one line of product, a consumer is very likely to find the best, policy at the best price. My coauthor Wesley J. Smith saved himself one thousand dollars a year on his auto insurance recently by taking this simple advice — that was $1.000 off the same policy, I might add, sold by different agents.. one of

whom walked the extra mile to get his business, over one who did not.

— DON’T FALL FOR THE ADVERTISING: Insurance companies rarely compete for the personal consumer’s business by contrasting policy contents or price. Instead, they sell their corporate image with empty slogans designed to seduce you into giving them your trust, rather than earning it from you on the basis of the contents and price of the policy itself. So, don’t buy because a cartoon character tells you to or because an actor on television portrays a friendly agent in a commercial. Buy because you have found the best policy at the best price from a reliable company.

— BE INFORMED: You cannot make smart purchasing decisions if you don’t know the questions to ask and/or you know little about what you are buying. (How many of you have actually read your own insurance policies? Not many, I’ll wager.) Yet, the average consumer has it within his or her grasp to understand the ins and outs of the insurance policy they are buying just as they do with other purchases they make, such as stereos, televisions and automobiles. In fact, the more you let them know you know, the less likely they will be to try to pull a fast one. (I am recommending that consumers take Winning the Insurance Game to their insurance agent, lay it on the desk and say, “Here. I know the insurance score and I expect you to deal with me from that basis.”)

— KNOW WHAT IS NOT COVERED: Every insurance policy has exclusions which specifically remove certain areas from coverage. For example, homeowners insurance liability coverages exclude injuries caused while driving an automobile. By knowing what is not covered, you can avoid unpleasant surprises and take steps to ensure that your insurance does not have dangerous holes in it just waiting for you to fall in.

Robert Hunter, an actuary and president of the National Insurance Consumers Association (NICO), has two consumer axioms that are crucial for not buying certain kinds of insurance:

Axiom 1: Only buy insurance that covers you or your family for events that would hurt you financially if they occurred. That is, think catastrophic.

Axiom 2: Only buy insurance that covers against such events completely, not just against some sort of specific event or illness. That is, think comprehensive.

Hunter recommends, for example, not buying cancer insurance (instead buy health insurance) or rain or luggage insurance during your vacation, or air travel insurance (instead buy life insurance).

In short, a thinking consumer will save both money and lots of frustration. Not a bad exchange.