Consumer Awareness Important; Apathy and Rules Changes Key Concerns

Washington, D.C., May 4 —Industry insider, Tony Braga advocated consumers winning back personal responsibility and authority for understanding, preparing, and filing claims owed to them under insurance policies, during his recent Policy Ensurance Address given at the American Council on Consumer Interests (ACCI) 47th annual conference.

Voicing his support for claim responsibility, Mr. Braga, who has extensive insurance adjusting experience, told the conference that responsibility and authority for filing a claim should remain with the policyholder.

"Marketing has had a great impact. Back when insurance started, it was the responsibility of the policyholder to put forth the claim. That meant calculating, understanding and actually presenting a claim, so that the insurance company would respond and give consideration to that claim. As each generation proceeded we kind of did away with that idea. We didn't want to go through the trouble to understand that, and we wanted to be taken care of, especially through marketing and slogans that have us believe that we are on the same side, or we are a friendly neighbor, or in good hands..what have you. All of this leads to believe and have people expect, and really it isn't in keeping with the policy itself. However, lately now the policy has been changing. But this is the alarming part.."

Braga, warned that there have been a great many changes undermining insurance consumers' rights, though none more significant than recent changes in "Standard Policy" wording that have taken away the policyholders' authority to file a "claim" and handed that discretion over to insurance companies.

"It is no favor to have your responsibility taken away when it means losing YOUR RIGHT OF AUTHORITY, but that really comes down to responsibility and authority. They go hand in hand. You can't ignore one and have the other go on. You have to have the responsibility, and if you can't assume that responsibility, if you're unable to interpret, or understand, or calculate, or formulate, or negotiate, or whatever it takes to get that job done, then you should look to someone who doesn't have anything to lose in the transaction. Don't look to someone who has something to gain, because actually the insurance company has their own interest to protect. The more they pay, the less they keep."

In talking about the Spiral of Fraud, Braga said, "It won't end, but through a better understanding we can..we can change the spiral. It is my belief that we can change it though responsibility. If we can each assume as a consumer that we have that responsibility ourselves to make an understanding, and not turn that over to the other side, because it is the other side, regardless of the slogans and I know they don't want to be thought of as the other side, but they are the other side. In a two party contract, they are the other side, and they have nothing to lose by being that other side. I think they have more to lose by trying to wear both hats at once.

Braga said in response to a question from a member of the audience regarding fraud by insurance company representatives: "Yes, but they're just people. They're not saints, and there are people on both sides. Actually, if you think about it, the person being asked to wear two hats can't serve two masters at the same time in the same transaction. You really can't do it. Your integrity can't be divided into two...That's the problem. Trying to be an agent to both parties in the same transaction. That's wrong. Eventually that has to stop. In all other aspects of our life that's stopped. You don't see it in law with attorneys. A defense attorney and a plaintiff's attorney are separate. You would never put those two together. That one person would never represent both sides. We just haven't done it yet in insurance. It's been so long that we've accepted it this way, that no one wants to bother to undo it. But it has to be undone, eventually."

He closed with his recommendation: "The consumer definitely has a separate interest to protect. And it's only through apathy that we've gotten ourselves in this situation. We have to just find a way to break free of the slogans, and break free of the past generations. It's going to take some doing, but I really believe we have to win back our right to make a claim. I think that's essential. I think it's an intrinsic right that we should all have...We more or less have to prepare ourselves. It's hard to cheat an honest man, and if you've already taken the steps to understand what you're entitled to and you've done your homework, it's no more difficult than presenting your taxes for payment. It's probably less difficult, if you just get past the veil, just look beyond a little bit."

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The complete Policy Ensurance Address is at: http://www.sure-net.com/address.html