THE DINNER TABLE – Spread out here is my annual insurance packet, about 2,000 pages, both sides, small type. Do you ever read your insurance policies? Of course not. We must suspect that a team of lawyers writes these forms so that no one understands or even reads them. The gang that handles my policies is Fig Leaf Insurance Co. I like their slogan, “On call 24/7.” Unfortunately, they have an unlisted number.
Going through the mountain of material, I find a new page: “Action needed: Wildfire Defense Services.” OK, if I lived in a California forest or virtually anywhere in Australia, I would probably need wildfire insurance, but I live in the middle of a city and the only trees around me have been planted, surrounded by concrete, and are desperately trying to stay alive. Besides, there are relatively few koalas and wallabies around. On the other hand, no one in the history of mankind has said, “I’ll build a house here even through it might burn down.” Wait. I have a weekend hovel in Varicose Valley surrounded by unindicted but retired CEOs nursing their golden parachutes, and those living under the Federal Witness Protection Program. My place up there is surrounded by trees. Maybe I should look into this — or hire a bunch of beavers.
The form asks: “Whom should we contact in the event wildfire threatens your property?” Well, duh. The fire department, of course. Then it asks, if that first contact cannot be reached, who else? I answer: “The next closest fire department, then the next closest.” The insurance company wants a brief (100 characters max) description of the entrance to my property “in the event wildfire smoke reduces visibility.” OK, so here’s the fire truck pulling up with siren and red lights, and can’t find my front door. Do they go to their laptop and see what I wrote down? “Chief, it says here to look for a front door with a mail slot and a welcome mat, and inside are four smoke detectors.”
Speaking of insurance, do you have health insurance? If you don’t, you are not alone, especially if you are a child. Texas is the uninsured capital of the United States. More than 4.3 million Texans — including 623,000 children — lack health insurance. It’s getting worse: Between 2016 and 2018, Texas tied for the second-highest jump in the rate of uninsured children among all 50 states, according to a study by Georgetown University. Those uninsured of all ages usually have worse health problems than those who are covered. That seems pretty obvious. In Texas, just 35 of the state’s 254 counties account for 70 percent of the uninsured. (Some 20 percent of uninsured adults in Texas are undocumented immigrants.) Texas’ 28 largest cities, including Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Ft. Worth and El Paso, have a greater percentage of their population without insurance than the nation as a whole.
Here’s an interesting, if depressing, stat about insurance: The next time you go driving, of every five vehicles you see on the road, one driver doesn’t have car insurance. Yep, 20 percent of Texas drivers are uninsured, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The other 80 percent carry at least the minimum – minimum? — amount of coverage. This means there are over 3-million individuals in the state of Texas driving with no insurance. Those are the ones who hit you.
My policy doesn’t cover any collision with “a bird, animal or falling object.” As comedian Jeff Foxworthy observed: “If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you may live in Texas.” Maybe the deer have insurance. As for being hit by a “falling object,” I worry about falling meteorites, along with tsunamis and a Boeing 737 Max. I am not covered for the vehicle’s rust, mold or fungus. I guess I’ll have to get my car washed someday. “We won’t pay for the loss to a vehicle caused by freezing, by ice, by thawing ice or by freezing water.” Now what is the difference in ice and freezing water? The lawyers who drew up this policy must have taken a course in law school: “Silly excuses not to pay:101.” Here’s something you are paying for and probably don’t know: $4 per vehicle to help fund, among other things, “fraud prevention and criminal justice efforts.” The laws requires that the four bucks be sent to the Motor Vehicle Crime Prevention Authority. Did you know there is such a state agency? Did you know you are paying for it?
Going on to page 349, I see I am not covered by any loss caused by chemical, biological or electromagnet problems. There are a lot of folks along the Houston Ship Channel who could use such coverage. Add to that, no coverage for any escape of nuclear materials. Remember that Japanese tsunami that released tons of radioactive stuff? This next section is odd: Fig Leaf has the right not to renew any policy, but an exception is made: “If you are an elected official.” Shows the power in the Texas Legislature by the insurance lobby. I cannot transfer this policy. “However, if you die,” they will continue my policy. That gives “cover” a whole different meaning. “We reserve the right to repair or replace property ourselves, instead of paying with money.” So my Matisse is substituted for a Starving Artist portrait of himself or a paint-by-the-numbers landscape. I get no money if my vehicle is wrecked in a race, but there is nothing about a get-away car. This is odd. I am paying $725 for umbrella coverage. My umbrella is not worth that much.
As you can see, insurance policies are complicated, deliberately wordy and companies know you will never read the fine print, or even the big print. So just make sure you never have a wreck, your house is fireproof and watch out for falling meteorites.
Ashby is uncovered at email@example.com