You Are Now Uninsurable!


These are the words Tom, my insurance broker and consultant said to me a month or so ago when I told him I had Prostate Cancer. Not too long previously I had reduced my life cover and the delay before I can claim on my income protection insurance from 2 to 3 months off work, against his advice I must admit.

Insurance

By David Fletcher; Dominion

I have spent a fortune on Life Insurance and Income Protection Insurance premiums over the years and never once made a claim. We often debated whether we should drop them and thought about how much money we would have saved if we had put the same amount of money in the bank.

It turns out that there is some cover that I may be able to access from the Income Protection Insurance and I am working through a pile of forms at the moment to prepare a claim. I wouldn’t have known about this cover if it wasn’t for my broker Tom Fox of Canopy Group, for which my sincere thanks.

So far the gap between what Southern Cross has paid and my cancer related expenses is probably in the region of $15,000. A pittance compared to what some people spend on more difficult cancers. Of course I don’t know what’s ahead. I have a little sick leave up my sleeve so if I find myself feeling too tired or unwell to work as a consequence of the radiation treatment, I’m OK, but I’d hate to think of what my situation would be like if I didn’t have my insurances.

So here’s the thing. Insurance is a grudge purchase. We don’t expect to claim and the insurance companies hope we won’t. That’s how they make money and that’s why as you get older the premiums keep going up in proportion to the risk. It’s often the first thing to go when times are tough.

We do have public health, but chances are if I had to rely on it, I would be on a waiting list while the tumors grow and the likelihood of being able to get treatment outside of my work hours is probably next to zero in which case my job could have been at risk. I must say my employer has been fantastic and very supportive which is awesome, but financially its my burden.

I cannot get buy any new insurance, I can’t ever increase my cover. So here’s another piece of unsolicited advice from me:

If you are in your 50’s (and I have lost friends much younger from cancer and other conditions) get yourself some cover before you have the PSA test, so that you can honestly say that you have no known conditions, because you don’t. As soon as it is on record with your GP or specialist that you have cancer, it’s too late.

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10 Things I haven’t been quiet about


I’ve had a few comments suggesting I haven’t been blogging much lately. When it comes to this blog and The Future Diaries I haven’t been prolific lately, but I’ve been pretty active on my SoLoMo Consulting blog.

So, if you’ve missed me, here are 10 things I’ve been writing about lately:

  1. Climate Change Refugees. This one on The Future Diaries where I was looking back from the future when all the expat Kiwis and anyone else that wanted a clean green, safe environment was hightailing it back to New Zealand. Interesting to see recent stats back up that notion with migration hitting a 9 year high with one of the biggest groups this year entering New Zealand was Kiwis who had been away for a long time. When fresh non-recycled water becomes a rare commodity, watch them all run to the bottom of the planet.

    Fresh drinking water that hasn't been recycled

    Fresh drinking water that hasn’t been recycled

  2. Usage Based Insurance. I’ve mostly called it PAYD or Pay As You Drive. This story today is about insurance companies using Fleet Management data to determine risk and charge premiums based on how safe commercial drivers, particularly freight companies drive. Makes sense doesn’t it. Fleet Management would also give insurance companies advanced and near real time geographic risk profiles.
  3. Planning your Thanksgiving travel. The weekend is upon us and it seems ironic that we get together to be thankful, but the process makes it one of the most stressful weekends on the American calendar.
  4. I’ve blogged a lot about your mobile knowing where you are and what you’re up to. Now your mobile is starting to know what building you’re in and which floor you are on and retailers want to know.
  5. 19 car manufacturers have got together to ensure that you don’t stop buying their cars because they have embraced location based services. You want the features but you don’t want to give up your privacy. This is becoming a very hot topic.
  6. Take away all the traffic lights and intersection controls and you end up with safer streets. Really? Well it seems to be working in some places.
  7. Hacking Traffic Systems. I copped some flack from a traffic engineer over this, who said it is an old story and DOT’s are way to smart to risk being hacked. Phew, I am very relieved. No illegal green-waves here!
  8. A smart car ITS corridor in Europe. It makes sense to try it somewhere. Driver-less cars should be tested in a safe environment first IMHO.
  9. How big do you think Virgin Atlantic’s new Google Glass check-in service will be at your local airport? It may be a breeze, but I think there will be a lot of breeze between people who will use it.
  10. There is always a story about someone who crashes their vehicle and says the GPS nav made me do it. Here’s one about a truck driver who drove into a public park in Milwaukee and blamed his nav.

So as you can see, my fingers haven’t been idle. Hopefully there’s at least one story here to attract your interest and maybe a comment.

Electricity, Earthquakes and other Disasters


So in this series motivated by the Canterbury Earthquakes and particularly Christchurch, I have looked at how prepared we were and what personal lessons we could take away. I asked is it now business as usual, have we gone from maybe it could happen to me, to phew, glad that’s over and we’re good for my lifetime?

 

I don’t think the people of Dannevirke thought so this week when the 5.1 hit there. But then, were they planning on getting prepared before that? Possibly not. Are Wellington people still watching?

I talked about putting together an emergency kit and all the things that Civil Defence recommend you should have both for in the home as well as a kit that you can have ready to throw in the car last minute. This could be useful for so many things, not just earthquakes. In NZ and Australia fires, floods, volcanoes are just a few reasons for people to have to bail in a hurry. If you prepare a getaway kit and never ever need it, that’s great:)

I had a look at community issues and remembering or meeting your neighbors. This is really only a starting point and I want to come back to this in future because once we get over the physical wounds, the things we can see, we are going to have to deal with the psychological outcome. I believe we are going to be dealing with a whole city suffering from PTSS. We are starting to see small examples such as when people are visiting areas of Christchurch that have been closed to them. The tears are good and the visits will help with acknowledgement of the situation and belief in the recovery, but there are still people n0t able to get their cars back let alone go back to their places of work. There are still buildings being torn down.

There are kids who won’t sleep in their own rooms at night. There is an underlying emotional distress of an order that NZ has never had to deal with before. People will be saying I’m OK Jack, but many of them are not. I have some ideas on this, but it will be a separate blog.

I started on the insurance saga, this was before the EQC story and the AMI bailout.  I don’t know about you but I’m getting concerned about banks and insurance companies getting massive bailouts.

They are always talking about the risks they take in consumers, but it seems like perhaps it is the people taking the risks. Should we pay premiums to insurance companies, trusting that they will re-insure and spread their risk and spend a minimum of our premiums on sharing profit amongst employees and shareholder dividends, at least until after they know they have the necessary reserves for major disasters.

Insurance is like playing poker machines or lotto, it is about risk. If a gambler blows their rent money at the casino, does the Government bail them out? Rhetorical question. But when the banks get carried away and over commit themselves to loans that don’t stack up, when insurance companies commit themselves to risk they can’t cover and the government bails them out, it isn’t some nice friendly uncle we’re talking about. You and I are the Government. That money comes from our taxes. It means more pressure on minor things in our community such as education, health, taxes.

So I was wondering, if an insurance company has failed in managing its risk, is it in fact guilty of trading while insolvent? Should the $500 million bailout go to them, or should it go to a liquidator to share amongst the people who bought policies from them in good faith? How much of the bailout goes to the people waiting on insurance payouts? Would you like an answer?

I wrote about the lessons we learned about the telecommunications companies and I have to say I think the telcos did a great job. There are things you can do as well to be able to continue to communicate without power to run or charge your phones. Have you changed anything since then?

Today I wanted to write about electricity, but I’m at 681 words already and there is a fair bit I’d like to stay, so if you’re interested in my thoughts on electricity and emergencies, you could subscribe to my RSS feed or bookmark this page. I think you might find what I have learned interesting.

I also want to write about green power and particularly about solar power schemes, following on from my blog a couple of years ago on Feed-in Tariffs. I’ve learned a little since then and I’m not sure the Government has. It was great to see Bunny McDiarmid from Greenpeace on TV1’s Close Up last night talking about the Petrobas oil exploration and the tension between that and our ‘renewable energy policies’. But I have to wonder where the Green Party is right now. This is a huge opportunity for them in election year to discuss solar power opportunities which are really starting to prove effective in many countries around the world through FIT programs. More on this in one of my next blogs…………….

In the meantime, here’s a video that explains the installation of a PV system on a house in Puget Sound.

The Insurance Aftermath of an Earthquake


First there were several people who had inadequate insurance in Christchurch. I have no idea what the situation is in Japan, but I understand that some of the worst hit were apparently poor communities illustrated by the ease with which the  tsunami washed away the houses.

I think the first thing goes back to my previous blogs on preparation lessons, the aftermath and getting your household ready. The Earthquake Commission is there to help after a natural disaster which isn’t covered by normal household insurance. But the scope was huge. They had over 440,000 claims and even in dealing with those, their liability is up to a maximum of $100,000 for dwellings and $20,000 for personal property. Try building a house for $100,000 or replacing even your basic possessions including appliances, furniture, clothing etc for $20,000. Some people will pretty much walk away with nothing.

Now insurance itself is a risk game and they take our premiums on the expectation that for a large number of people they will never have to pay out. Now I haven’t seen the financials for EQC, but I suspect that most of the money has gone into running the organisation over  the years, especially given that after the event John Key says that the government may have to treble the levy in our taxes for future incidents. Does this mean that we are now going to start to pay for what happened, borrowing from the future because the funds weren’t there? Are wee robbing Peter to pay Paul?

We always knew a major disaster looming. Of course we thought it was most likely to happen in Wellington. It hasn’t, which of course doesn’t mean it won’t because Christchurch and Wellington are on different fault lines. But I would have thought with years and years of taxes and no major incidents, EQC would have been flush with funds.

Anyway, back to the present. If you don’t have adequate insurance to cover everything, think again and do what you can, even if money is tight, things could get a whole lot worse. I hate insurance. I was once asked to do a whole lot of psych tests by an insurance company who thought I would be a star life sales person. The idea of selling life policies to my friends was anathema but I loved tests, so I spent a whole day doing the tests and they came back apparently saying I would be hugely successful. I declined despite the offer of a big package. Today I wonder if I should have taken the money, because I better appreciate the importance of insurance. It’s a gamble by both parties, both hoping we will never be in a position to need the cover.

I have life, income protection, health, car, house and contents policies and it eats up a lot of money. So far the insurance companies have enjoyed a lot of meals from my table, but if something major did happen, I feel secure that if my company closed for 6 months because its buildings ceased to exist, if I was injured or ill long term, or if my house washed away in a tsunami, I could rebuild. As the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral said, its the people that matter, the church can be rebuilt.

One concern I had with the aftermath was seeing people throw away their household appliances, carpets, furniture etc and wondering how they would be able to prove what they had lost. The share scale meant that many people had to do that, but it does show the value of having a list of your possessions and also photos. I once had a software app that did that, but never fully used it. Another thing to my be prepared list methinks.

 

Household devastation after the earthquake

So I recommend you grab a digital camera or video camera at least, so that you can go through each room and record your possessions and the state of your property, so that you will have proof in the unlikely event that you could need it. Then store the information somewhere safe. I used to keep my songs in safe deposit on video, with the bank, some people thought I was stupid, but again its just insurance.

Enough for now. I hope I’ve given you some more food for thought. Here’s some fond memories of mine of Christchurch a couple of years ago, with a song I am still writing.

 

Living longer with Cryonic Suspension


Cryogenics has been the subject of science fiction for as long as I can remember, but it has now become an accepted science in many ways.

Cryogenics is now commonplace for use in fertility health. It is quite common now for people to store eggs or embryo’s for future implantation. Organisations like Fertility Associates in New Zealand have had success with freezing sperm, eggs and much more.

More and more people are starting to freeze the umbilical cord of newly born babies with a view to being able to use the cells to aid in treating serious immune conditions such as cancer with a guarantee of acceptance of the cells by the person, because they are in fact their own genetic matter.

Now there are companies like the American Cryonics Society who are offering a service to freeze human bodies with a view to restoring them to life at a later date. This may be a matter of freezing a sick person for an illness that we currently have no cure for, for people who are well, but know that there will be treatments available in the future to prolong life, or perhaps those who want to be able to experience the future.

You would think that this would be an expense that only extremely wealthy people can access, but there are now opportunities through people like Rudi Hoffman who are offering insurance plans that will cover the costs of cryogenics when they are needed. This means that you can plan to live longer if you wish to take the risk that it will be viable. He is also looking into your needs if and when you are revived. The insurance and investments will ensure that you have an income available to you if you do come back and also protecting your property from others who are looking for an inheritance.

One of the common questions, including mine are the damage that would be caused by ice crystals forming in the body, and especially the brain, but as Ben Best says in his Cryonics FAQ, we already use compounds to stop crystalisation such as propylene glycol which stops ice cream from crystalising and keeps it smooth. In cryogenics there are chemicals used to cause vitrification, thus preserving the tissue without damage.

According to Alcor, the other Cryogenics company in the USA less than 100 people have been frozen to date, but the exciting thing is that they have.

I find this fascinating, but am left with lots of questions:

  • People talk about proof that animals have been frozen using cryonics and then reanimated, but I couldn’t find any evidence on the web.
  • If you are already sick or dying, what is the likelihood that you could be brought back to life? What are the odds that if you could, that they would treat your condition over and above people living at the time you were brought back, unless you have huge financial resources to cover the costs.
  • Will your brain still function normally after it has been frozen?
  • If you come back, are you still you? Is your essence the same?
  • Would your chances be better if you didthis while you are still young and can take advantage of future sciences to keep you young, as opposed to someone who already has old cells that aren’t reproducing with the same youthfull excellence, in effect your body has already significantly deteriorated?

Then of course there are all sorts of religious and ethical issues which I’ll leave for someone else to ponder over.

This is fascinating and there are all sorts of opportunities for the future. For example the ability to freeze astronauts so that they can travel light years away without physically or mentally ageing.

I suspect this technology has to come, but there are so many surrounding issues that will need to be considered and I’m sure it won’t be an option for me in my lifetime. This is another example of Science Fiction becoming reality and babies are being born without defects from frozen eggs, sperm and embryos. Admittedly they are less complex than human adults, but the fact that this works suggests that it is only a matter of time before people can be frozen and reanimated. But when will this be achieved? Don’t hold your breath.

I would love to be frozen and come back for a year in every 10, but I also want to enjoy my family today. Other than dying of an incurable disease you would have to be very selfish and self indulgent to turn your back on your family in order to outlive them.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)