I am a self-confessed podcast junkie. I have an iPod Touch, and by far I use it more for listening to podcasts than I do for listening to music. One of my all-time favorite podcasts is NPR's Planet Money. Every Tuesday and Friday, the Planet Money team releases a fairly short (20 minutes or so) show about a money-related topic. Somehow, they manage to find interesting stories that you may have wondered about at some moment or other and present them in easy-to-understand, entertaining ways. Some of the offbeat stories they've covered include:
Why New York State built the Tappan Zee Bridge at the widest point of the Hudson River.
Why we buy cars the way we do, when people almost universally hate buying them that way.
Why Coca-Cola kept the price of a bottle of Coke at 5 cents...for 70 years.
Why the U.S. has a dollar bill instead of a dollar coin like Canada has.
The list is a lot longer. I highly encourage you to give the show a listen. If you find it as interesting as I do, I encourage you to subscribe. Either way, the Planet Money episode of Feb. 8, 2013 is definitely worth your time. In 21 minutes, they cover four stories, the first two of which are insurance-related: Why the federal government is in the flood insurance business; and whether gun owners should have to buy liability insurance. I learned something new about the history of the National Flood Insurance Program. Enjoy!
Aon partners with Space Expedition Corporation to provide comprehensive insurance solution for space travelers
LONDON (Dec. 11, 2012) – Aon Risk Solutions, the global risk management business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), announced today that it formed a partnership with Space Expedition Corporation, the Netherlands-based space tourism company dedicated to making space travel available for private citizens. Aon, in collaboration with Space Expedition Corporation, has designed a unique insurance policy providing comprehensive and customized protection for space travelers.
This insurance policy provides coverage for losses related to flight cancellation, postponement or temporary interruption. It is based upon a regular non-appearance cancellation policy and also includes additional supplemental coverage.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for private citizens to have the opportunity to travel into space,” said Jeff Poliseno, CEO of Aon Risk Solutions’ International Space Brokers Practice. “Our partnership ensures that all those participating in the Space Expedition Corporation program will have comprehensive coverage during their preparatory training and eventual space travel.”
Space Expedition Corporation will begin to operate daily commercial flights to space in 2014 for private citizens that complete the mandatory training program and pass medical testing. The flights will be performed in the Lynx suborbital spaceplane that is designed and built by XCOR Aerospace, a company that utilizes reusable launch vehicles, rocket engines and rocket propulsion systems.
“This partnership reflects our shared philosophy of innovation,” said Michiel Mol, CEO of Space Expedition Corporation. “Our combined services will provide a complete package for clients going to the final frontier and back.”
Regular readers of this blog (and I hope I still have a few of them left) will note that new content has been absent for a few weeks. I want you to know that I have not abandoned the blog or the podcast.
As you may have seen in the news, parts of New York State experienced a rather significant weather event a few weeks ago. While the area where IIABNY has its office was barely affected, many IIABNY members and their clients were not so fortunate. As a result of the storm and subsequent actions by the New York State government, we have received an usually high number of questions and requests for assistance from our members. Answering those requests will always take priority for me over writing this blog. Consequently, I just haven't had time since the fourth week of October to post here. I promise, however, that new content will appear soon.
You read that right: Now, if you're standing in line at the supermarket and wondering what else you don't know about the New York amendatory endorsement to the Personal Auto Policy, the answer is as close as your iPhone (or Android, or Blackberry, or whatever your preference happens to be.) This blog's content is now mobile-friendly, meaning that it's easier than it was to view on smartphones and tablets.
I'll resume my regularly scheduled insurance geekery with the next post.
As insurance professionals, our job is to anticipate the worst and prepare for it. Are we doing that within our own organizations? Can we be better prepared? This five-minute video, courtesy of Site-Seeker, Inc., looks at a few things organizations can do before a crisis to make sure that they're still around after the crisis.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, the category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida on August 24, 1992. It’s important to note that Andrew was the first storm in a late-starting season that produced only six named storms.
To this I would add the following: It has been an unusually hot summer here in the mid-Atlantic states. The waters of the North Atlantic likely are not as cold as they might normally be in August. Warmer water = more fuel for storms. A Long Island agent voiced these concerns to me just a few weeks ago. All things being equal (and I'm not factoring in the effects of El Nino,) the hotter summer would appear to increase the odds that a major storm will hit the New York City metro area and New England.
No one in New York is anxious to see the cousins of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee pay us a visit, but we shouldn't be terribly surprised if they do.
It's the day after the Fourth of July, but that doesn't mean the celebrations are over. Really, having the holiday on a Wednesday just enables the party to last through the weekend. Independence Day means all the traditional American rituals -- baseball, hot dogs, apple pie ... and fireworks.
Fireworks displays are synonymous with summer here in the U.S. of A. I can't imagine a summer without them. When handled by qualified professionals, fireworks can make you laugh or just gape in amazement at the spectacle unfolding in the skies.
Unfortunately, lots of people try to have their own homegrown fireworks displays, and the results can be as bad as it gets. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, during the month surrounding July 4, an average of 200 people will visit emergency rooms every day due to incidents involving fireworks. Nearly half of those injuries are to fingers and hands, more than half are burns, and two-thirds will be to the male of the species (who apparently don't have enough ways to maim or kill themselves.) In 2011, four deaths were related to the use of fireworks.
Medical insurance obviously becomes involved in accidents like these (sidenote: 45 percent of injuries occur to the "young and healthy" people under age 25 who supposedly don't need health insurance.) However, the liability coverage in a homeowners insurance policy may come into play if someone who is just watching the fireworks gets hurt. From a safety and insurance standpoint, it makes sense to take great care with these explosives.
So, if you feel you must ignore New York law and drive across the state line to buy fireworks, please follow these recommendations from the CPSC so that you will retain all 10 fingers:
Keep them away from kids. We tell kids not to play with matches for a reason.
Do not try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully ignited. The main event could occur just as you do.
Keep a water source on hand (hose, bucket filled with water) in case things go wrong.
Light them one at a time and stand back from them.
Don't shoot them off in metal or glass containers (can you say, "shrapnel"?)
And a few last pieces of advice that should go without saying, but I'll say them anyway:
Don't point them at people before shooting them off. Your aim may be better than you think.
Drinking alcoholic beverages and shooting off fireworks is a bad idea on more levels than I have to time to count. If you've been pounding beers, watch the display from a safe distance. On TV, for instance.
Insurance Information Institute president and former IIABNY director Bob Hartwig has some advice for U.S. insurance carriers:
The insurance industry “needs to not just ride the rising tide in,” he says. “There is a new trajectory of growth in the American economy.”
Uncharacteristic industries not typically involved in economic rescue are leading the way, paving a road to opportunity for insurers who recognize it, says Hartwig, who recently gave a presentation at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies’ Claims Conference in Savannah, Ga.
Energy, natural resources, agriculture, health care, and transportation and infrastructure are at the beginning stages as the country’s newest growth engines, Hartwig says.
“And many insurers would find that they are underexposed to these sectors,” Hartwig says.
Hartwig says that the insurance industry needs to venture into some different waters if it wants to take advantage of a recovering economy. Waiting for a hard market to bring sharply higher rates, he says, is a mistake. In his opinion, the real opportunities for improved profitability lie in some fairly hazardous industries. In my old commercial underwriting days, I might have ended up in solitary confinement if I had written energy or mining accounts. We had a program for some fruit and vegetable farms, but we didn't make a big push for agriculture business, either.
Hartwig's opinion makes intuitive sense to me, but I wonder whether insurers who are nervous about their loss ratios will buy it. Particularly in the Workers' Compensation arena, the classes Hartwig is talking about can produce some severe losses. The loss potential must put a scare into any rational underwriter. Still, if his predictions are correct, and insurers can reap the benefits of growing exposure bases, timidity may result in golden opportunities lost.
What do you think? Do you agree with his conclusions? Will insurers aggressively pursue these accounts? Start the discussion in the comments.