Column: Roger's Soapbox

Perspective | In England, Insurance Is Above the Law

By: | July 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

I was quite old when I was sent to the government re-education center. This being England, not Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China, there was a fair chance I’d emerge from detention alive. The force driving my punishment was not ideological dissidence — if it were, I’d have been shot years ago.


This also not being Hitler’s Germany, my accuser was not a neighbor or a family member, but a robot. First law of robotics: You cannot argue with a mechanical device. When a robot categorizes you as criminal, that’s what you are. No due process required.

The robot in question was a speed camera. Ever vigilant, it photographed me driving at 39 miles an hour along a street where the limit was 30. The police documents explained that no excuse was possible, no circumstance mitigating. I didn’t fight the law, and the law won.

Britain operates a points system for drivers. Twelve points bring automatic license suspension. The three points my speeding would earn didn’t much faze me. I don’t own a car but rent one for special occasions. I do that rarely, so my chances of obtaining nine more points are tiny. Why, then, did I subject myself to four hours of accusation, condemnation and condescension?

It wasn’t fear of the law; it was fear of insurance. The greater the points, the greater the premium.

Why did I subject myself to four hours of accusation, condemnation and condescension? It wasn’t fear of the law; it was fear of insurance.

Re-education erases the potential three points as if nothing happened. One becomes, once again, in the eyes of the law, a person who has never committed a crime. It’s a valuable status in case one ever does want to commit a crime. Previous good behavior is currency when you give the swine downstairs exactly what they deserve.

Re-education means I could be named a Justice of the Peace or run for high office without fear of the skeleton in my closet. I will enjoy no such status, however, with the company that insures the next vehicle I rent. One of the questions asked when you rent a car, or renew insurance on your own vehicle, is, ‘Have you recently been caught speeding?’

Lying is not advised.


Insurance is, therefore, above the law, and that ain’t right. If it’s good enough for the police and the state to treat me as blemish-free, why can’t insurance companies?

Wait, I hear something. Ah, it’s readers explaining that their business is based on experience, period.

It must be their experience that informs the decision to refuse to insure me when I reach 71 years of age. Not worth the risk, the companies say.

I’ll have to buy a car instead. If I buy a car at that age, every insurance company in Britain would be delighted to insure me — at an increased premium because of a crime police records show me not to have committed. They might just as well load the premium for my part in the Valentine’s Day Massacre. No, wait, forget I said that, and don’t go getting ideas.

Should I reach 71, the notion of a life sentence won’t mean very much. It will be time to start being very nice to me. Motor insurers, kindly take note. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]