Insuring your life and your health

June 5 2007 by Ellen Roseman

I’m doing a weekly series in the Sunday Star on insurance, which kicked off in mid-April. Readers tell me they don’t know much about insurance, even though they own a lot and buy it as part of other purchases (e.g. mortgages, credit cards, car leases). It’s hard to understand exactly what protection you’re getting in your policy. Even the person selling it to you may not understand it.

Along the way, I’ve been picking up horror stories about not having your claims paid out when you need the money. Perhaps you bought travel insurance thinking it would cover the cost of your trip if you had to leave early because of illness. Maybe yes, maybe no. See this column for details.

Perhaps you’re covered for medical and dental benefits under your employer’s plan. Did you realize you had to submit claims by a deadline (the end of the year or shortly afterward) or risk not getting paid? Did you know you could co-ordinate your work benefits with your spouse’s benefits and get more money? See this column for details.

Please tell me your stories about the insurance policies you’ve bought and whether you’ve made any claims. How were you treated? Did you get what you wanted? I plan to cover car insurance and homewner’s insurance, as well, in this series of weekly columns.

13 comments

  1. brad

    Jun 5 2007

    We recently purchased our first home, and the lender offered to sell us “mortgage life insurance.” It sounded like a ploy to me: for one thing it’s being offered by the lender while you’re still in the conditional approval phase for a mortgage, so there’s an unspoken assumption that you might stand a better chance of getting approved if you go ahead and purchase this protection (which of course is not true).

    Second, the offer comes at a time of high stress when you’ve got a lot of things to deal with; it’s easier for most people to just say “yes” and not take time to research the details. After doing some research and asking around, I learned that you’re probably better off increasing your regular life insurance policy if you have one, because it’s not tied to your mortgage…when it comes time to renew your mortgage you may have trouble changing that mortgage life insurance coverage.

    In my own case, I went ahead and bought the mortgage life insurance despite my misgivings, because I can’t actually adjust my life insurance policy (it’s provided by my employer). Also, there’s a huge income discrepancy between me and my spouse, so I want to be sure she doesn’t lose the house if I die.

    But as a general rule, I think most people should say “no” to mortgage life insurance and provide additional coverage for themselves through their regular life insurance.

  2. Maxine

    Jun 14 2007

    I went on a cruise a few years ago. My diamond engagement ring, appraised at $16,000, was stolen from my cabin on the ship. I had taken it off at night and placed it on the bedside table, only to find it gone after my room had been cleaned the next morning. I had insurance on the ring through State Farm at the time.

    I reported the missing ring to security on the ship, who did a 5 minute investigation, and told me that this happens often, and most times it’s the ship’s crew that steals it, and there’s really no way to prove it. I came back to Toronto and filed a claim with State Farm. They refused to pay because I hadn’t reported the incident to the police. I explained that I was in the middle of the sea, there were no police, and that I had reported it to the security on the ship. They told me to provide them with copies of the report from the ship’s security.

    I told them that I was not being paid to do THEIR job, that I had paid my premiums and they are being paid a salary to do whatever is neccessary to settle a claim. It wasn’t my responsibility to chase after paperwork, investigate the details of an incident and provide them with documentation. They flatly refused to proceed any further with the claim.

    To make this story short, it was a nightmare. They had no intention of settling this claim and did everything they could to not accept any liability. I fought and threatened a lawsuit. In the end, they did replace the ring. No consumer should have to go through this kind of ordeal. You pay your premiums for years and when something happens you are treated like a criminal. It’s unfair, unjust and needs to change.

    Insurance is nothing more than legalized fraud. I am forced by law to purchase insurance on my house and my car, etc. And the insurance companies, which take my money year after year, are legally allowed NOT to pay out if and when I have to make a claim. I am forced to pay them money, keep my mouth shut, and say nothing ever, or they’ll make my life miserable. Sounds like mafia activity to me.

  3. Marilyn Smith

    Sep 2 2007

    I read with great interest the letters about insurance companies, which hit a nerve with me. I am battling a major insurance company and financial institution over my disability claims. It has been well documented by physicians about my condition, but insurance companies and banks don’t listen. They pay more attention to their bottom line, rather than the consumer.

    It is a real pity that they can control a person’s life to the extent of homelessness, but give themselves the big bank bonus at year’s end. The insurance companies use third party service providers and psychiatrists that, I presume, must receive a good kickback to say a person is OK and to cut benefits when it is clear that they have bypassed doctors’ instructions.

    It is a sad world when some insurance companies and banks think they can control a person’s life and family and put us into perpetual proverty and distress.

    I firmly believe there is a lot of illegal activity going on, but I for one will not give up the fight for justice for all disabled people.