- The act or an instance of insuring
- A sum paid out as compensation for some theft, damage, loss etc.
- A sum paid out
I don’t know if you have ever crashed your car, or lost something valuable to you, or had a house fire, a flood, or had something stolen? If you have, you will know it costs a lot of money to replace the items, and as most of us don’t have bucket loads of spare cash, we would find ourselves in a bit of a predicament. That’s where insurance comes in.
I don’t know when it started, but we can assume it had something to do with wealthy people wanting to protect their property, or goods, but you can see the sense in taking it out, after all, insurance takes the “what if?” and “if only,” out of life, even if we are only talking about possessions.
I did not have insurance on my list of topics to write until several weeks ago, a time when I was in the final stages of editing the book.
I had gone on a two week holiday to greece (my first proper holiday for many years), and it was during this time, I realised I had a missed an important topic. Let me explain why.
I woke up in the morning with a slight pain in my abdominal area, nothing severe, but nonetheless, uncomfortable. Having had food poisoning abroad on many occasions, I put it down to a dodgy meal the night before, or ice cubes in the water. I got some herbal tablets from the pharmacist, and he told me to take these three times a day, and if it didn’t clear up, I should go to the doctor.
Four days later, and it was still there, so I headed down to the local doctor’s surgery.
“If you can just fill in this form please, and write down the details of your travel insurance.”
“Ah, but I don’t have any travel insurance,” I replied, now starting to worry I wouldn’t have enough money for treatment.
“No travel insurance…?”
“Err, no, how much will it be?”
“Oh, I see.”
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t taken out travel insurance. I guess that because I have been travelling regularly for the past nine years, I had become a little, should we say, blasé about the whole thing. You see, I only considered travel insurance as important if you were carrying a lot of money, or possessions with you, and thought they might get stolen, I never for one moment thought about a medical emergency!
I dutifully handed over the cash, and was informed that I probably had a urinary infection, and was sent off with the usual prescription for antibiotics.
At the pharmacy, the pharmacist told me:
“Remember to keep your receipts, you will be able to claim this back on your travel insurance.”
“I don’t have travel insurance,” I replied, chastising myself for not having ticked the box which said, “Would you like travel insurance?”
I handed over the cash, and started taking my tablets, twice a day, after meals.
One week passed and I still had pain, so I went back to the doctors.
“Yes, I see,” said the doctor, “the tablets prescribed are probably not strong enough for you. I will write you another prescription.”
I handed over more cash, went back to the pharmacy, handed over more cash, and started taking my tablets, twice a day, after meals.
The next morning, about 5.00 am, I was awoken with a strange pain in my left side. I thought it must be trapped wind, so I sat on the toilet for about fifteen minutes, trying to let it pass, but the pain just intensified. I went out to the balcony, and started to pace up and down, just to relieve the pain, but it didn’t help. Within 30 minutes, I was in agony; I couldn’t work out what was causing this pain. I went into the shower and just stood with hot water running over my lower back. It gave me slight relief, but as soon as I came out, I felt sick, and disorientated. At this point I started to worry, thinking: “I’m going to have to phone a doctor if this gets any worse.”
And it did get worse.
I phoned for an emergency doctor, and although I was in a great deal of pain, couldn’t help thinking how much his bill might be for coming out to a hotel room at 6.00 am.
He eventually arrived, prodded me for about a minute, and finally said:
“Kidney stone? How?”
“Oh, there are many causes. I will give you this pain relieving injection, then you should take a taxi up to the private hospital, and see a specialist. Make sure you keep your receipts and then you can reclaim it from your insurance company.”
“I, erm, don’t have travel insurance, what should I do?”
“Go to the public hospital and wait.”
Fortunately, he didn’t want any money upfront.
I couldn’t stand going on the bus, so I booked a taxi, which cost another 45 euros.
I waited and waited at the public hospital, at which (being a european citizen), I could get free treatment. I may have still been in some pain, but I was glad I was in a european country, and not somewhere where treatment would have cost me my life savings – if I had any!
After what seemed like days, I was finally seen by a nice doctor who did an ultrasound, and confirmed, that yes, I did have a small kidney stone. I should take these pain killers, and go and see my doctor when I got back home.
I took the prescription to the pharmacy, handed over some more cash, and started taking the tablets, three times a day, after meals, and took a taxi back to the hotel.
I returned to the uk the next day, about 350 euros lighter than I expected to be, but glad not to be in pain.
So what’s the lesson here? Is there one? Do I only have myself to blame for not taking out travel insurance, or is there something more fundamental going on we should be looking at?
Compatibility test: Insurance vs. Compassion
If only I had taken out insurance, I would have saved myself all of that stress, wouldn’t I? If I had just paid the very reasonable sum they were asking when I booked my holiday, I wouldn’t have had to worry about going to a private hospital. In fact, I may have gone to the doctor earlier instead of trying to save money by buying the cheap tablets from the pharmacy.
But let’s look at this from a different angle, shall we? It seems that these days, we need two things in life – the first being money, and the second, being insurance, but the people who are worst off have neither, so if anything goes wrong for them, they just have to deal with it! There is no one there on the end of the freephone number to say:
“Certainly, mr orr, we’ll get your house all fixed up after that flood, and in the meantime, please book yourself into a nice hotel, and we’ll pick up the tab.”
No, unfortunately, you’re on your own. If you have lost everything, that’s your tough luck. You should have studied harder at school, so you could get a better job, so you could pay the very reasonable sum for insuring your house. But no, you chose to miss classes at school, and tried to be cool, by not doing your homework, and the consequences of that, are that you now have a flooded house, ruined possessions, and nowhere to live. Deal with it.
That’s not very compassionate, is it? But then, that’s how life is these days. You see, every man is an individual, and individuals have to make sure they look out for number one, after all, no one else is going to, are they?
It seems to me we have lost an important part of being human, and that is to help people who are in need, and not ask for anything in return. Sure, we may see appeals on television for some major disaster and get our credit card out, but that’s about it. We don’t actually want to physically help people, especially in our own country. We seem to think we can only help people who are in an undeveloped country, where we say, “Poor wretches., look at them,” and magnanimously pick up the phone and say: “yeah… card number 4453 3221 1321 1321. Yeah… 50 dollars to the people who just had that earthquake…. Sure…. Ok… Thank you… Bye..”
And that’s it done. You have shown your compassion, and you return to watching tv, and sipping your tea.
But what if, the next day, your neighbour had a fire? Would you get your credit card out to help him? I seriously doubt it.
You would say: “I hope he’s got plenty of insurance,” and return to watching tv, and sipping your tea. If you heard that, in fact, he had no insurance, would you be compassionate, or would you say: “He’s only got himself to blame. Everyone knows you need to take out insurance.”
That’s incredible, isn’t it? One day helping out people in some faraway country whom you will never meet, and the next day, ignoring your neighbour, who really needs some help.
Why do you think that is? What is it about the modern society we have created, in which we will help people 3,000 miles away, but not someone who lives in the same street? Maybe, it is because we think the people in the faraway country can’t help themselves, but know that our neighbour only had to pick up the phone to arrange insurance.
“You’ve only got yourself to blame,” you tell him.
“Yeah, thanks for your compassion,” he replies.
You see, I think insurance takes the compassion out of being human, the feeling that one wants to help their fellow Man, in his time of suffering, and replaces it with a policy number.
To me, this is just another good example of how far we have come down the road of individualism, compartmentalism, and meism! No longer do we have a community, where we know everyone, and will help people if they need it, now, neighbourly compassion has been replaced with a corporate customer services centre.
We are so wrapped up in “me,” that we fail to notice that anyone else exists, unless we happen to catch some emergency relief appeal on the television, which sparks a tiny part of humanity in us (or gives us an opportunity for some guilt relief).
Compassion is about recognising suffering, and wanting to do something about it. Insurance is also about recognising suffering, and wanting to do something about it.
But only one is money free, and comes to the aid of his fellow Man, just because he can, not because he is a customer.
Prepare for death! Insure yourself!
Insuring your property, your possessions, and your health, are not the only policies available. Oh, no! There are so many more to choose from. But the one I want to talk to you about first is life insurance, where you pay money into a policy for many years, and when you die, it pays out! Surely, this is a joke, right?
“No, it’s no joke,” says one of you. “My husband died last year, leaving us with no income, and no way to pay the mortgage. If only he had taken out life insurance, we would have been able to have a happy life. As it is, we will have to sell our house, and move to a tiny apartment.”
So I would say that the man who dies, leaving his wife and family to pay bills, without having taken out life insurance is a very selfish man! How dare he die, and leave the family with nothing?
But seriously, I can see the point of life insurance if you are able to cash your cheque at the “bank of the afterlife,” but if that’s not possible, I don’t think I’ll bother. You see, when I die, I die. That is the end for me.
“But what about your family? That’s a very selfish attitude to have!” I hear some of you say
Unfortunately, it does sound like a good idea. And that’s the problem with insurance. On the face of it, it does seem sensible to prepare for the unexpected, to take the “what if” out of living. So we sign up in our droves, knowing that once we have our policy in place, life can throw its worst at us, and we will be prepared! Because, you see, you must always plan for the unexpected. You never know when something bad will happen to you!
Talking of dying…
When I used to live in australia, there were always adverts on television for funeral insurance. Funeral insurance?! I couldn’t believe it. And they also made you feel as though you were being selfish, if you didn’t have a funeral plan.
(sad music playing, images of people crying)
“What would your family do if you died unexpectedly? Did you know it can cost up to five thousand dollars for a simple funeral? Five hundred for a priest. One thousand for a casket. Three hundred for flowers…. For only two dollars ninety a week, you can insure…”
I was seriously sickened by this. I couldn’t believe that the insurance companies were praying on people’s worst fears – not just the fear of death, but the fear of being a financial burden on your family!
In life, we now always assume the worst, and so we insure against it. We now expect that things will go wrong (sorry, but where did all this negativity come from?).
Are we so scared of living that we have to prepare for something “bad” happening to us? Yes, it may be unpleasant if there is a fire in your house. Yes, it may be unpleasant if you have your possessions stolen.
Yes, it may be unpleasant if you crash your car. But surely, the very act of insuring these items makes the fear of loss greater. You may think it’s the opposite, but you see, if you have insurance, it must mean that you are afraid to lose these things, that you are psychologically attached to them.
You may think this is a stupid topic, and that “everybody knows it’s sensible to have insurance,” and that actually, I don’t know what I’m talking about, but let me ask you one question: Do the animals and the birds need insurance?
Does a bird take out insurance just in case his nest gets destroyed in a storm?
Does a squirrel take out insurance just in case someone steals his nuts!?
Can you see the point I am trying to make? If no other species on earth has insurance, then why does Man need it? I will let your over-active mind give you the answer.
“Because, what if a storm comes, and my house is destroyed, it would be terrible, I would lose everything, then what would I do? It would be terrible, I would lose…”
As usual, the whole thing comes down to Man’s best friend, money.
You see, the bird doesn’t need any money to build a new nest, as the materials are free; and the squirrel doesn’t need any money to get more nuts, as nuts are free, the only person who needs money is Man, as he is the only species that has to pay for food and shelter. Maybe we will all start having to look at our lives more closely to find the real reason we need insurance.
By Alan Macmillan Orr
“The natural mind- waking up”