Column: Roger's Soapbox

Insurance in the Post-Truth World

By: | February 20, 2017 • 3 min read

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

Most people who work in insurance know what it is: spreading the risk for the common good.

What knowledgeable people think, however, is of no moment in the post-truth world.

Sixty-four percent of people obtain their news from the internet, rather than from print or TV.  The internet believes that Kim Kardashian is the most important person on the planet.

If you enter the words “Insurance is” into search engines (which, you may recall, forced the printed Encyclopaedia Britannica out of existence), thousands of results come back.

In first place: “Insurance is a rip-off.” The opening response suggests that “as a first approximation, we assume that insurance is always a bad investment.” The fellow who wrote that justifies this view on the basis that most of us pay more for insurance than we recover from it. He wants insurance for free. No genius award for him.

Albert Einstein, that brainy fellow, was unable to find employment for years, but rejected working in insurance, because it represented “an eight hour day of mindless drudgery.”

Next comes “Insurance ISO forms,” and later “Insurance is fun.” Of the things I have heard insurance described as, fun is not one of them. Larking about naked on a yacht off Monte Carlo is fun. Insurance is serious. I thought the response would self-complete as “Insurance is fundamental,” but no such luck. I can’t work out what is actually about, other than selling T-shirts to that effect.


In fifth place: “Insurance is a scam,” which we’ve dealt with, and then: “Insurance is boring.” This idea is promulgated by a site named, which has the good sense to add, on its home page, “… but it has its benefits.”

Albert Einstein, that brainy fellow, was unable to find employment for years, but rejected working in insurance, because it represented “an eight hour day of mindless drudgery.” He added: “One must avoid stultifying affairs.” So a genius award might be relevant for this site.

Insurance in Comprehensive

Next up: “Insurance is comprehensive.” However, the links all lead to comprehensive insurance, which is not the same thing at all.

“Insurance is an intangible product” follows. That one’s a worthwhile read. For years, growing up, I would hear on the news that British exports of “invisibles” were increasing. I thought I might enjoy selling invisible products to customers far, far away.

Ninth comes “Insurance is socialism.” Conceptually, it sort of is, if you think about it. “Society pools its resources together to protect against any individual’s sudden loss or misfortune,” says the first linked site.

How many insurance executives outside of China, do you suppose, think of themselves as socialists? One for all and all for one, that sort of thing. You scratch my no-claims discount, I’ll scratch yours. None, I’m guessing.

Last comes “Insurance is gambling.” Which it also sort of is.

And there you have it. In the popular mind, we in the insurance industry are socialist gamblers with the power of invisibility, fun and yet no fun, who rip people off for a living. What swine we must be. &

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]