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Published:October 1st, 2006 10:39 EST
There's a Fungus  Among Us

There's a Fungus Among Us

By Amanda Carver

Insurance rates are high. That’s a pretty redundant statement.  I may as well tell you the sky is blue, or a hot stove is, well, hot.  You know insurance rates are high.  Everyone knows it.  The press has been inundated the last few years with stories about the skyrocketing costs of insurance.

I’m an insurance agent I spend all day looking at other peoples bills.  My job is to help my clients get the best coverage they can, at the best available price.  I see rates, figures, facts, and spreadsheets and cringe with each new increase. Believe me, it hurts me too. 

With every rate spike, my job gets harder and the clients get tougher.  Sure, I enjoy educating my customers about insurance.  It’s important for me to know that they understand what they have, and why they have it.  Simply accepting a check, knowing they have no idea what they’re paying for, isn’t ethical, nor is it an acceptable practice in my office. 

In the old days, I would quote, educate, discuss, and help my clients make informed decisions about their policy.  Today, I do all of that, but my clients are jaded.  They are sick and tired of paying so much and feeling like they are getting so little.  I can’t say that I blame them.  When I leave work and drive home, the first thing I do is stop at the mailbox and pick up that days post.  Once a month, the insurance bill comes.  My bill.  I curse under my breath, say a quick prayer, and then open it up to be shocked just like everyone else.  “Why is this so high?” I shout every time. 

I know why it’s high; variables, so many variables. Those tiny little factors used to determine the rate, the cost of an individual’s policy. Not too hard to understand, sure, but why, why have those rates been rising for everyone, no matter the variables? Why has there been such a dramatic increase in the cost of insurance, across the board? 

Several factors, again. Consider the weather. Katrina, Rita, wildfires burning hundreds of thousands of acres and homes, tornados.  That certainly plays a large part in the increase, but the one little factor that’s bugged me to no end.  A factor hat’s angered me, disgusted me, and made my job so much tougher than it has to be is mold.  Those tiny little particles that have been with us since time began. 

Homes have always had mold.  Check your bathroom. No, really check your bathroom.  You’ve got mold there, somewhere.  Here in the South, mold is a part of life.  Hot and humid conditions turn our houses into Petri dishes.  But we know what to do about it.  Rather, we did know what to do. 

I clearly remember following my own mom around the house as she “squik squik squik” sprayed her homemade bleach solution around the house.  She waged war on the bathroom and we never had mold.  Well, never had mold we could see.  Sure it was there, lurking, somewhere, but nobody ever got sick from it and our house never had to be bulldozed because of it.

Then the “black mold” craze hit the insurance industry a few years ago, everything changed.  Someone had mold, bad mold, and decided that their insurance company should pay for the damages.  This was a new one for the company, nobody had ever tried to claim mold before.  The case ultimately went to court and the judge sided with the insured.  The precedent was then set, my friends, and the gates opened.It was mind boggling to see how many “Mold Restoration Specialists” popped up over night.  The insurance companies had no idea what “mold remediation” cost because it had never been done.  Attorneys, specialists, and new claimants flooded the insurance industry demanding, yup, money.  I can tell you in all honesty that those people saw the insurance company as an open checkbook.  Money was pouring into “mold claims” like wine at Caligula’s pad on a Friday night. 

It took awhile for the company to catch on to what these people were doing. Too little too late, however, as the damage was done.  House’s were remediated at 3 times their cost.  Now imagine that, you take a $150, 000 home and spend $450,000 getting rid of mold. Hello???  Bulldoze the house to the ground and rebuild it.  With replacement cost, the home could be rebuilt form scratch for $170,000…but you just spent $450,000.  How does that make sense? Somebody just pocketed $280,000! 

I’ll tell you how, my friend.  Litigation. Juries. Judges. Attorneys. Once the precedent was set in that first case, it opened the doors for all the others.  Now who do we blame the insurance companies for not knowing any better and taking so long to catch on?  Do we blame the judge that set the precedent? Do we blame the attorneys that jumped on the bandwagon and only served to add fuel to the fire?  I don’t know. 

All I do know, is this…insurance, is a means of sharing risk. SHARING.  We all pool our money together, and share the risk.  When something bad happens to one person, the money is there to repair the damage.  However, when everyone jumps in and needs repairs at the same time, well, it isn’t there.  The insurance company must raise the rates and collect more money for the pool to ensure that it’s an adequate amount. That's why rates go up, to make sure that there is enough in the pool for the next claim. 

Remember that the next time you see someone get a tiny bump from behind and start screaming about his or her neck.  Remember that the next time you hear about someone lying to the adjuster, just to insure that they’ll get more money out of their claim because they want a trip to Cabo.  Remember that, the next time your insurance bill arrives. I do, and I get mad. I get mad at those select few that see the insurance policy as their own personal meal ticket because they are causing my rates to go up...and up...and up.