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The Button Monster: who controls Insurance Companies?

By our guest columnist.

Insurance: your whole life revolves around insurance. From all sides, you are bombarded with information that life is dangerous from the cradle to the grave. You make or cause accidents, personal injury, there are thieves and arsonists running around, you may run out of income, your house suffers from leaks, etc. And that is why you need insurance. But what we forget is the basics: you take out insurance to get financial compensation for demonstrable damage (sometimes compulsory, legal). The thinking behind this was that damage and risk would be borne collectively by the whole community.

Practice shows otherwise. Big Insurance companies have acquired such status that they want to know everything about an individual before proceeding with (sometimes very little, if any) compensation. Your privacy is at stake while Insurance companies and others feast on your input. Here are some worrying trends:

The (local) government passes on information regarding your move without notifying you in advance. The Zilveren Kruis, for example, receives your change of address automatically via The Municipal Personal Records Database.

The national Electronic Patient Record (EHR) appears to be off the table for now, but the media report that doctors find the EHR very convenient. It is also believed (who actually?) that 300 million put into the project and now appears to be wasted and that is a shame. The Senate's decision notwithstanding. What is not mentioned is that several regional doctors' practices have been set up with a completely separate system that does not involve an Insurer and therefore information is not linked.

Money appears to be a driving force to consistently map you and earn fat from it, without any compensation. We believe further investigation is needed on abuse, overuse and greed for money. Think shareholders but also, for instance, periodic medical examinations of intimate parts. Calls for mandatory cervical and breast cancer screenings. If you stayed away without opting out, you will receive an angry letter. Why? After all, you had not signed up. This year, for instance, we learnt from five friends that they had undergone the preventive cancer screening of which three ladies were then called for further tests at the hospital because they were said to be in the danger zone. The three women turned out to have nothing wrong, but were worried and scared for days and underwent a lot of stress. And this while Insurance companies no longer want to reimburse certain treatments once they become too expensive because the treatment would be too intensive and costly.

What was our surprise when we wanted to hire a van? In addition to our driving licence (which, by the way, is legally valid identification), we suddenly had to show our passport, because, said the counter clerk, in case of theft of the van, the insurance company would otherwise not pay out. After all, Poles and Romanians would otherwise be untraceable.

A wife transfers tens of thousands of guilders from her own account to her husband's account with a large Insurance Company after a consultancy meeting with a representative on pension provisions for self-employed people. Following the usurious policy scandal, husband and wife decide that the money should be returned to the wife's account and she attaches agreement from her spouse to the letter, including copies of both their passports. The Company does not want to pay out because the money is parked in the husband's account. The question arises for us why this company does accept the money from the wife's account without question and does not inquire why the money is transferred from one account to the other or ask for an explanation from both parties. Apparently, only the recipient is important?

Then the "innocent cases": after giving your private information and allowing appraisers into your house, only a small sum of money is paid out. And often not at all under the guise of age, wear and tear, overdue maintenance, etc. Rules of the game are changed annually and these rules are rarely in your favour. Of course, you can always cancel and move to the next Insurance Company which, by the way, invents equally nonsensical exclusions. Why do we divulge all our data and pay premium time and again? You serve as a data source and cash cow for the Insurance Company: who are you, what is your behaviour like, how often do you have claims, etc.? Moreover, despite this wealth of information, they do everything in their power to not cover claims, if at all. Much profit is made at the expense of your privacy, your health and your money and property.

The questions we would like answered are:

a. How is the privacy of the insured individual guaranteed?

b. What do Insurance companies do with your data?

c. What does one do with the Insurance Company-related (think improper use by medics) businesses related to this system and what are the long-term consequences for the individual?

d. Why is the government cooperating in providing information to large Insurance companies and what is the interest in this for both parties?

e. How is it that rules are changed by the Insurance Companies to the detriment of the insured at random, that your privacy does not appear to be private and in many cases you are not adequately compensated?

Who is cheating here? All of us? The collection of your data by the Companies, the control or failure to control and the unwillingness to pay out or under-compensate by insurer to insured(s) is in a totally different ratio than a small-time fraudster, such as a young person whose expensive camera was stolen for the umpteenth time while on holiday. Ditto for the claiming behaviour of medics.

Who knows may say.