Sympathetic Stupid

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Proactive Insurance?

(Wow, a whole month without a post. Impressive.)

Joel at WorldChanging writes about developments that could change insurance companies forever - and for better.

Big Euro reinsurance company Munich Re - who insure the insurers - found recently that "the world has suffered more than $200b in weather-related economic losses over the past year". In the US, investors representing $800b asked listed insurers about their exposure to climate change risks. Possibly this was because losses from weather events have increased 15 times in the past thirty years. The incentive for the insurers is obvious. Could they start pushing for action on global warming?

Prevention is obviously in the interests of insurance companies - it's a shedload more effective than putting the premiums through the roof to pay for it. And it's not just in this area. Car insurance? Well, sure, AAMI give me 5% off if I do the skilled driver course, and there's a bit of a saving for off-street parking. Home insurance? It's cheaper, as I understand, if you've actually got locks on your doors.

Health insurance is the one which strikes a chord with me. Surely it's in the interests of the insurer to see that you don't actually get sick, rather than having to pay out for your hospital bills. Insurers and allopathic medicine seem to go hand-in-hand, with the philosophy "you get sick, then we'll treat your symptoms and hopefully you'll get better". There's very little prevention, bar the routine over-prescription of blood-pressure- and cholesterol-lowering drugs. (And boy, do the drug companies love that.) Yes, there is some inclusion of 'extras' in policies, which allow spending on many alternatives (like dentistry...) to be claimed, but there's no real incentive to do so (or indeed to pay the extra premiums to get extras included).

I'd love my insurance company to talk to my GP and then propose that I see a homeopath once a month, at their expense, to combat those niggling headaches and neuralgia. Or if I see an acupuncturist, to do something about my low energy, they'll reduce my premium by 5%. Or a dietician, to get rid of that persistent heartburn. Or even a psychologist, to have a chat about how I deal with stress at work. Remember that Australian breakthrough - that Stress Makes You Sick (SMH)?

I wonder how the cost-benefit equation works. The government's got a stake in this as well, through PBS and health funding. If an insurer could make all their clients 10% more "well" (a tricky metric, I know), how much could they, and the country, save? Is anyone trying?