Sunday, 24 January 2010

Industrial Disease

The Gabby Logan Show on BBC Five Live this week shows how the insurance industry ducks its responsibilities and allows many people to die long before they pay out.

There are two direct repercussions to this - 1) the person dies a particularly uncomfortable and painful death without any financial support and 2) the pay out is automatically reduced after death even though relatives will have shouldered the cost of care. Both are terrible but the latter is a belter - once the unfortunate person dies then only if there are dependents alive will the pay out be the nearly the same as the award to the suffering person. If not, then it is reduced as non-dependents are supposedly in less need of the money - a nice way to save cash. Dependents are defined as spouses or children under 18.

This is not rocket science. The expense associated with making a claim is huge and it is a lengthy process. As a family, we experienced this when my father was diagnosed with mesothelioma after working all his life for the same company, BP. His only interruption in service for the company came from a stint in the Navy (seconded to the Merchant Navy) during WWII. Despite this, and his being able to pinpoint the most likely period of his employment with the company when he got most exposed, the company denied and denied it. Fortunately, we found the insurers quickly, engaged a good lawyer and claimed. My father, after so long a service with BP for whom he sacrificed a great deal working all over the world and away from the family in places like Alaska and Aden, was heartbroken that his employer turned their back on him, when all he needed was some contribution to things like a downstairs shower or wheelchair.

Even after we had found the insurer, the process outlived him. As he fell to the worst part of the illness, he asked us to pursue the case as he was so upset that his company would deny him. Eventually, an award was made. We had a meal in his honour and opened a bottle of his favourite wine, Barolo, after his service in Italy for BP where he suffered a life threatening car crash after too many hours on the job commissioning a troublesome refinery and where our mother suffered a stroke at an early age. We bought a piece of machinery for the hospital in Swansea where he was treated which would make life a little easier for fellow sufferers - and it says something that a small unit at that hospital needed such kit for such a rare disease - and a bench at the Nursing Home for the terminally ill that he spent his final hours in.

I will not go into the disease other than to say it is the most virulent of cancers which is caused by asbestos and affects the lining of the lung - it is inoperable and terminal in all cases, yielding a terrible death.

Insurance executives should read such articles and view programs on it and think about how they would like to die. If they should contract such a disease from the negligence of their employer, then the one thing they would want is some comfort and help during their suffering.

That is the one thing insurance companies in these cases do not give. I have no sympathy or respect for that industry in total. Faceless executives betting and profiting on misfortune and making it onerously hard to get access to what is rightfully claimed. You need a cold heart to be successful in it - and most are.

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