Virtue is to be admired and praised, even in one’s enemies
–Niccoló Machiavelli, The Discourses
Slabbed is a blog that grates on those in the insurance industry, its legal counsel and proponents. My impression is that because those from the insurance industry do not like the criticism, positions and strong rhetoric, they stop reading Slabbed and read only those that criticize policyholder advocates, policyholders, and others who pander to the insurance industry. Nobody likes to be criticized or cast in the role of the villain. That is human nature. Yet, I agree with comedian Chris Rock, who stated that "anyone who makes up their mind before hearing the issue is a … fool."
I was thinking of this while reading the August issue of the Insurance Fraud Letter by Barry Zalma. Zalma, like many in the insurance industry, takes great glee in publicizing when the well known consumer champions fall. I appreciate that those that make a living serving the insurance industry have an allegiance to it and a utilitarian need to pander to those that provide for their living. Still, those self righteous antidotes have worthy lessons and, within the rhetoric, there are often a few jewels. Zalma gave one in his recent newsletter:
"Without Insurance the economy of the world would collapse. No entrepreneur would dare invest money in a business if he could not spread the risk of loss of his property by insurance. No business would dare manufacture a product without the ability to spread the risk of suit from people injured by the product through insurance.
…Insurance is not supposed to be an adversarial relationship. That it has become so is obvious from the volume of suits filed by and against insurers faced with claims."
On a similar point, people often ask why our law firm is so busy. While we certainly have capable, dedicated attorneys and staff focused only on insurance law for policyholders, I think much of it has to do with the rise in litigation in that area of law and the war many insurance companies are waging on their own customers at the point of performance. While Zalma does not say who is to blame for the current "adversarial relationship," I agree with his observation. I find his candor refreshing and surprising because he has little to gain in the eyes of his masters that would rather keep this state of affairs from the general public.
Zalma’s truthfulness needs to be highlighted and critically analyzed when considering public policy. As Zalma correctly indicates, insurance is crucial to the world economy. It is a product that touches our lives everyday, although consumers rarely think about it except at the point of sale. Who wants to think about impending doom? Yet, it is obvious that there is a tremendous need for insurance consumer protection at the point of performance because that is the only time the insurer is put to the test.
Some in the business of helping policyholders become upset even when I write anything negative about them or activities they undertake that do not seem to be in the policyholder’s best interest. They dislike any publicity or reference to issues raised by the insurance industry that demonstrate a problem or issue casting negative implications upon their ability to make money in the insurance business or that would change the status quo. I suggest that the courage to listen to one’s opponent, recognize valid criticism and act upon it is far superior to what is so common in modern culture–making up one’s mind solely based upon the source of the message.