Is Insurance a Necessary Evil?

I have been experiencing an insatiable thirst to seek to answer this nagging question about whether insurance is a necessity in our country today. While the subject of insurance is broad and multi-faceted, I will seek to break down the perception of this subject so that our minds for a moment are not engrossed with the surreptitious picture of insurance agents’ incessantly cold-calling potential clients or pursuit of claims arising out of insurable risks by claimants.

Data from the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) shows that the level of uptake of insurance in Kenya is at an all-time low of 3.3 percent. This cannot be compared to developed economies like South Africa where the numbers are at 14%. Many explanations have been advanced to show why Kenyans are still averse to taking up Insurance related products. One prominent argument is that the Per capita income (GDP) of the average income earner cannot be enough to support payment of premiums. The other school of thought is that the savings culture of Kenyans is still wanting.

While the arguments above may hold water, the fundamental understanding of insurance has not been taught to most of us from an early age. The subject of insurance I dare say is still shrouded with a lot of secrecy and misunderstanding akin to the mysticism surrounding ancient religions. The language used is still rather technical to the average person. I realize that at this point I must correct myself quickly and note that every profession has its language; for an engineer has to use engineering language, an architect the same etcetera. Insurance also has its language but if its proponents profess that it benefits almost all of humanity, shouldn’t it be clothed in language that is not so grandiose but easily palatable to the common man?

The responsibility of the stakeholders in the insurance industry is to bring customers’ perception to how insurance works in a language they can understand. This would entail offering a basic insight on what informs the underwriting decisions on various insurance products by insurers. I want to suggest that it would benefit insurers to have open days where they invite people and educate them on the fundamentals of insurance, on the meaning of risk, why insurance is important to any economy and most importantly the benefits of insurance at a personal level. Apart from honing their sales skills, sales professionals need to align themselves properly with the market in order to understand and respond well to their customers’ needs. More often than not, sales people are perceived to be aggressive, over-achieving individuals who are not honest and are quick to point to clients the dotted lines in the application document. This negative perception must stop. Insurance sales people contribute immensely to the overall economic growth and offer important services without which an economy could not function well.

Now back to our overarching theme. Any society is fraught with risks. The risk of death by accidents, accidental injury leading to permanent or temporary disability, the risk of fire arising out of man-made or natural sources e.g. lightning, subterranean fire etc, the risk of accidental injury at the place of work owing to the nature of employment, loss of luggage while travelling and many more. What insurance does is simply to classify the above mentioned risks and price them into premiums. The premiums are then pooled and it is from this pool of funds that claims are settled. The guiding principle here is that a risk should be quantifiable. A close analysis of your immediate environment will reveal many known and unknown risks. Insurance companies manage losses that arise out of insured risks. Think for a moment the costs borne by the insured if there was no insurance to mitigate these risks. Imagine a petrol station owner being held liable for damage by fire arising from his petrol station to his neighbors. If the owner does not have public liability insurance, he may find it difficult to raise money to meet his legal fees and hence may not protect his business. This is because the cost of a claim can far exceed what a business is able to raise and necessitate the shutting down of a business altogether. Many examples abound where insurance solve practical problems and mitigate a host of risks that can cripple businesses and slow economic growth. At a personal level, medical insurance is very vital. Think for a moment the rising cost of Medicare and consultancy fees not to mention the increasing costs of pharmaceutical medicines.

But there is an antithesis to such a healthy explanation and this is advanced by some who argue that risks are only imagined hazards. They posit that a risk is imagined and only ceases to be a risk when an actual occurrence happens. Some even counter a proposal to take up insurance dangerously by arguing that they have, for example, not been admitted to hospital for a number of years and see no need to take up a medical cover. While it is important to live healthy and avoid the hospital and its attendant costs, it would be farcical for one to wish they had a medical cover in the face of a medical emergency.

In conclusion, insurance is necessary to any growing economy like Kenya in spite of the low uptake. It not only creates employment and puts in abeyance the worry of meeting risks; it is an indicator of economic growth and a sign of a thriving economy. More needs to be done to educate the masses with regard to this subject. The responsibility lies squarely at the court of the regulator to put pressure on insurance companies to increase the uptake of insurance in the country. Incentives must be given to companies that have the highest level of penetration to make sure they maintain their influence and widen the market. Is insurance necessary? Indeed it is. Next time someone dissuades you from taking up an insurance plan, think again.

Importance of Medical Coding for Insurance

With health and diseases becoming a major issue these days around the world, it has become A LOT more important to have more and more coders involved in the medical field for insurance. But what is medical coding? A medical coder, clinical coding officer, or diagnostic coder are professionals involved in the health care sector who analyze clinical documents and using proper classification systems, assign standard codes to them. They provide medical coding guidelines and suggestions to help regulate the ways doctors, nurses, and other medical staff provide care for their patients. There are three main types of medical coding:

1) ICD (International Classification of Diseases): These are codes used for describing the cause of illness, injury, or death.

2) CPT (Current Procedural Terminology): These deal with anesthesia, surgery, pathology, radiology, measurement procedures, and new technological changes in the medical field.

3) HCPCS Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System): These include outpatient hospital care, medical aid, and Medicare.

Let us look at some points as to why coding is necessary for the medical field.

DATA SYSTEMS
When the coding is paired with the data systems of the hospitals, a powerful tool is made. By doing so, a large number of data from various hospitals, clinics, and other sources are stored, accessed, and used from one large online data system. This implementation helps in the transfer of any patient’s data from any hospital to another for any medical purpose. This information helps doctors to be more connected and make wiser decisions, especially in cases involving the life and death situation of the patient.

PATIENT CARE

Coding is very much required for reimbursements, which include submitting medical claims with insurance companies and bills between insurers and patients. The transfer of information for bill related purposes requires medical records, patient’s medical needs, lab results, pathology records (if any), and any other related documents. Appropriate payment is possible only when the required diagnostic codes are put in place, which also means to verify in case the medical claim is denied by the insurance company.

REGULATIONS

Medical billing and coding fall under the rules and guidelines of many countries and states. Coders in this field are also responsible for protecting the privacy of the patients and their families. They are supposed to take safeguards to preserve the confidential details concerning the patient and his/her medical background in a safe place. Electronic medical records fall under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) codes issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Medical coding analysts are in the front line in healthcare data analytics. They work in many types of healthcare setups and not necessarily in hospitals and clinics. Their valuable service is very functional for research and development in the medical field.

How to Select Your Insurance Advisor?

You must opt for a life insurance policy. If your finances allow, you must also get health insurance as well as home insurance. This way you would be able to save yourself from any sudden financial crisis. However, you need the best of persons when it comes to an insurance advisor. In this article, we will take you through five steps to hire the best LIC advisor in Delhi.

1. Always prefer a certified advisor

Your insurance advisor must have proper certification from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA). This proves that he/she is not there to trick you or fraud you. Moreover, the guidelines laid down by this agency make sure that you are protected on all fronts. If a person is not certified by IRDA, legally he is not entitled to advise people on insurance. He may end up in jail. Therefore, before selecting an agent, make sure that he/she has all the necessary certifications.

2. He must be through with investment solutions

You must understand that insurance agents are much more than just a salesman. They must have a proper understanding of financial planning. They should be equipped with all the necessary information about the financial world, both domestic as well as globally. More importantly, your LIC advisor should have a proper understanding of your family and financial standing. This way he would be able to suggest you the best insurance for you. It is advised that you should first develop a good friendship with the advisor and only then allow him to enter your financial realm.

3. He must have a complete understanding of the product he wants to sell

The insurance advisor must have a thorough knowledge of all the insurance policies that his/her company sells. You should sit down and have a long conversation with him about the pros and cons of various policies. You must understand that every insurance company sells a hell lot of policies. Not all policies are meant for you. Your insurance advisor must suggest you the best policy for yourself after understanding your family and finances.

4. Does the follow-up?

He/she is a cheap insurance advisor if he/she forgets you after you have bought the insurance policy. This is not what a responsible advisor does. Even after you have bought the policy, you may have a hell lot of questions to be answered. He/she must update you about the product premium and all the necessary details to make the best of your insurance.

5. He must help you while fulfilling your claim

When a claim arises, an advisor plays a very important role. He is the sole contact person between the insurance provider and the policyholder. He must understand all the formalities that need to be fulfilled for a successful claim. If your claim is denied there was no point in opting for that insurance policy. A good insurance advisor will stand by you when you need him/her the most.

Health Is The Most Important Wealth

If you’re fortunate enough to have employer-provided health insurance, that narrows your options down to the plans that your employer offers. If you don’t have coverage through your job, perhaps an organization or association that you belong to will allow you to buy health insurance through them at a group rate.

Another option is to check your local Obamacare health insurance marketplace to see if you qualify for an upfront premium credit, which would get you reduced premium costs. Even if you don’t qualify for the credit right away, buying your health insurance through the marketplace means you may qualify for it when you file your tax return for the year.

If you can’t, or won’t, get health insurance from any of these sources, you’ll have to fall back on buying a private plan. It will give you the widest range of options, but likely will be far more expensive.

Decide which type of policy to buy

Health insurance policies come in a variety of basic types, although you may not have access to all of these options through your preferred source. Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) are a very common type of health insurance policy. With an HMO, you’re required to use healthcare providers within the policy’s network, and you have to get a referral from your primary care physician in order to see a specialist.

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) are also quite common. A PPO health insurance policy has a network, but you’re not limited to in-network care — although using network providers is cheaper — and you don’t need referrals to see specialists.

Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs) are a hybrid between HMOs and PPOs. You’re required to stick to the plan’s network, but don’t need referrals for specialists. Finally, Point of Service (POS) plans are a less common option that are essentially the opposite of an EPO. You’re not limited to the POS plan’s network, but do need a referral to see a specialist.

Of the four common types of plans, an HMO or EPO tends to be cheaper than a PPO or POS with the same level of coverage. However, if network coverage is poor in your area, or you’re uncomfortable limiting yourself to network providers, it may be worth paying a little more to get a PPO or POS policy.

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High deductible versus low deductible

All things being equal, the higher a plan’s deductible is, the lower the monthly premiums will be. A high deductible means that you’ll have to pay a lot of healthcare expenses yourself before the insurance policy kicks in, but if you have few or no medical expenses in a given year, these plans can be a bargain. Very low medical expenses means that you probably won’t surpass the deductible, even of a low-deductible plan, so getting a high-deductible plan keeps your insurance costs as low as possible while still protecting you in case something catastrophic happens.

If you decide to go the high-deductible route, getting a Health Savings Account (HSA)-enabled plan, and funding it with at least the equivalent of a year’s deductible, is your best option. An HSA plan neatly covers the biggest weakness of a high-deductible health insurance policy – namely, that you’d have to shell out a great deal of money on a major medical expense before the insurance would take over. If you have a full-year’s deductible tucked away in your HSA, you can just use that money to finance your share of the expenses, while simultaneously enjoying the triple tax advantage that an HSA offers.

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Comparing coverage

There are two major factors that affect how well a particular plan will cover your medical expenses: the plan’s network and its coverage policies. Even if you choose a plan with out-of-network options, like a PPO, you’re still better off using in-network health providers as much as possible because doing so will reduce your costs. And the rules that a given health insurance policy uses to decide what’s covered and what’s not – and how much the co-pays will be – can make a huge difference in how helpful a particular policy really is for you.

For example, if there’s a rather pricey medication that you take every day, you’ll definitely want to get a health insurance policy that lists that medication on its formulary. If you travel a lot, stick to plans that offer good out-of-area treatment options. And if you already have a primary care physician, you’ll definitely want to pick a plan that includes your doctor in its network.

Finding the best deal

If you’re stuck between two or three different policies and can’t decide which one to choose, try this exercise. Multiply the monthly premium by 12 to get your annual cost for a plan, then add in the plan’s out-of-pocket maximum. The result is the most you would end up spending on health care if you had one or more major medical expenses during the year. Do this calculation for each plan you’re considering, then compare the results. The plan with the lowest total is likely the best deal for you.

Insurance Agency Lead Scoring

Many insurance agencies have not yet formalized their lead scoring system. This is a worthwhile endeavor for all agencies, and one which should be revisited every year, while tracking the return on investment of their marketing programs.

What is lead scoring? It is a methodology used to rank prospects against a scale, and then assign a value to determine interest level and distribution. For example, let’s say a trucking insurance lead appointment arrives at your agency. This lead is with an owner of 15 power units, they use company drivers, and they are unhappy with their carrier. Perhaps your lead scoring system falls on a 1 to 10 scale, and this lead is scored an 8. What might receive a higher score? And what types of leads are outside of profile, and what score would they receive? Perhaps prospects need to score an 8 to appear on your producer scorecards.

Is the lead distributed to producers by territory? Does your lead handling process vary by type of lead, product or prospect? For example, are commercial leads separated by large and small business, by industry or product? Are benefit leads parsed by groups over and under 50? And does your agency have a tracking system in place to determine how many leads showed for the appointment, moved into the pipeline, received quotes and ultimately convert into new business?

Salespeople, sales managers, producers and other business people often refer to prospects in vague terms such as: new, warm, hot, cold, likely, qualified, etc. These terms do little to better understand a sales pipeline or convey likelihood of purchase to other members of the team. Agencies can consider creating a simple prospect scorecard to resolve this issue and quantify their lead scoring. Formalizing lead scoring offers benefits such as:

Helps Producers create ideal attributes to form a buyer persona
Creates a simple numeric system to leverage your buyer persona
Assigns numeric values to rank your best prospects
Creates a simple qualification acronym to determine likelihood to close

What should be included in a prospect scorecard?

Use a prospect scorecard to quantify your approach to pipeline building. Some attributes of your ideal client might include revenue, growth rate, client type (business or consumer) and market niche. For example, are you targeting companies with $5m to $10m in revenue? Are your best prospects fast-growing firms, trucking companies, manufacturers or consumers?

If you’re selling to consumers, are they high net worth, middle-income, millennials or senior citizens? Are your prospects in a specific niche market such as banking, insurance, biotech, consulting, education, etc.? Create a scorecard with your ideal attributes and a customized qualification abbreviation to help you determine if you’re selling to an in-profile prospect.

Insurance agencies and brokers seeking to get to the next level with their insurance marketing and lead generation, but lacking the internal resources to achieve their marketing goals, can reach out to a proficient insurance agency marketing firm.