The sick shall be rewarded

   The health insurance man was on the phone. "Good news," said Bob. "Itís time for your group plan renewal and the increase is only going to be 17 percent."
   I could hardly contain my happiness. Only 17 percent! "Nice going, Bob," I replied. "Much better than the 25 percent increase we had last year. What happened? Did our insurance company sell one of their shopping centers before foreclosure?"
   I suppose I was a little too sarcastic. "Now thatís not nice." Bob answered. "With AIDS and other major health problems the insurance companies are still having a tough go."
   "What was our return on investment this time?í
   Bobís tone took a slight dive. "Well, letís see. You paid premiums of $57,144 and reported and received $16,435 in claims. Hmm, 29 percent." He paused. "They should be very happy with you."
   It wasnít a surprise. I knew that once again the employees of our company had failed to get me my moneyís worth. At staff meetings I would eagerly ask if anyone had been using our insurance plan, only to have my heart sink as I looked out at a room of lowered heads.
   It became so distressing I had no choice Ė I got my wife pregnant with our fourth child. She understood. Maternity coverage was indeed a part of the plan and with a work force of Christian Scientists it was the only way to get my return into double figures.
   Yet despite the profit we generated for our insurance company as a result of our companyís good health, we were slapped with a 17 percent increase. Bob explained that, obviously, other companies hadnít fared quite as well as ours.
   "Iíll tell you what," he offered. "Let me run a few comparables and see what I can come up with. Maybe we can do little better."
   I thanked him for his concern, hung up, and pondered whether to give one of the thousands of insurance brokers who had called over the years a chance to finally steal Bobís business away from him. I decided to open it up to competitive bidding.
   Fortunately, there was a health insurance broker lying in my doorway that very moment. I motioned for her to come in.
   "You have impeccable timing." I said.
   She looked skeptical. "If youíre sick I canít help you."
   "Believe me." I answered, "Insurance companies love us. I need a competitive bid."
   "Great! What kind of plan are you looking for?"
   That was easy. "One with a good return. Cheap. Major, major medical. Got anything with a $50,000 deductible?"
   "No, but weíve got a Preferred Physician plan with a $1,000 deductible that might meet your needs. Did you want dental, also?"
   I bared my fangs
   "OK, weíll cross out dental. How about prescription drug coverage?í
   I had tried that before. Abysmal return. "No thanks. Just major medical so that our employees will not be wiped out financially by something completely beyond their control. Our government couldnít offer this basic protection, so business must." I squared my shoulders and thrust my chin in the air. "Itís the least we can do."
   "I admire your civic responsibility. Anything else?"
   "No, just get me the cheapest, simplest plan you can find, and right away. I want to make a decision by the end of the week and never think of health insurance again."
   She took a copy of the "census" from our existing plan and left. I called Bob and gave him the new parameters ($1,000 deductible, euthanasia requirements etc.) and asked him to get back to me by the end of the week. I didnít mention any competitive bid possibilities.
   Both were very prompt, but only one could get the account. If it had been close, loyalty to Bob would surely have won out. But it wasnít close. Well, it was close, but not that close.
   I picked up the phone to give Bob the bad news. How could I break it to him, this loyal servant for the past five years? Sure, he had many other clients but this could really break his spirit. I had never had a complaint about his service. How could I do this to him?
   He answered the phone, the usual eagerness to please in his voice. "Bob," I said. "Youíre out. Call me next year at renewal time and maybe you can steal it back."
   Some things are easier than expected.



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