ARE POLITICIANS INSURABLE?

Yes and No.  And it depends.

But first, a definition.  For purposes of this column, a politician is a person who is occupying and elective post or is a candidate for office.

In life insurance, the published premium rates of a company apply only to standard risks; that is, applicants who are with the age limit (usually no older than 80), in good health and of temperate habits, and working in a non-hazardous occupation.

Some companies may insure those over 60 years o age at a surcharge.  The medical examination is waived when the application is for no more than P100,000 and the applicant is no more than 40 years of age (the amount and age vary with the company). Instead, the applicant is asked to fill out a form where he answers questions about his good health.  When the amount is large, a full medical examination by a company-appointed doctor is conducted.  The larger the amount, the more extensive is the examination.

The applicant’s temperate habits are usually attested to by the agent.

A politician may be within the age limit, may have temperate habits, but his problem is the companies, life and non-life, consider politics a hazardous occupation.

As a result, many companies classify politicians as prohibited risks and uninsurable under whatever terms.  Nothing personal, but business is business.

Life companies that do insure politicians do soon a strict case-to-case basis.  If the applicant is accepted, the company will slap a stiff surcharge on the premium, as much as five pesos a year for every thousand of sum insured.  Also, the company will not add any riders (those supplementary contracts that expand the coverage of the policy to include extra benefits for accidental injury, etc.) to the policy.  Even then, these companies will not insure under whatever terms politicians living in areas which are seen as hot spots.  The areas vary with the company.

As a rule, non-life companies will not cover politicians under an accident and health policy which reimburses the insured his medical and hospital expenses as a result of accidental injury or sickness.

All the foregoing takes care of the physical hazard of the risk.  But there is another hazard, not widely-known outside insurance circles, that weighs heavily on the company in assessing a risk and which applies particularly to politicians.

This is the moral hazard which is defined as the hazard arising from the possible behavior of an insured which may increase the possibility of loss be reason of carelessness or dishonesty.

For instance, a company would not want to insure a factory with poor housekeeping as this raises the possibility of a claim.  When the company thinks that the applicant, politician or not, is a crook, the company would not insure him at whatever premium.  If a company thinks that moral hazard exists, it will not insure.  Moral hazard is simply uninsurable.

Rightly or wrongly, companies think that, on the whole, it is difficult to do business with politicians.  In case of a controversial claim, a company does not want to have to fight City Hall.

The insurance market for politicians is quite restricted.  My advice to a politician who wants to apply for any kind of insurance on his life is for him to seek the help of a broker or agent.

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ARE OUR MUSLIM BROTHERS INSURABLE?

Those of us who look at the Davao pact as a historic turning point towards the long-sought after peace in and the resultant economic development of the Muslim areas in Mindanao out to realize the tremendous odds involved.  The political framework may have to be restructured.  That is the easy part.  The hard part is to create an atmosphere where person-to-person relationships between Christian and Muslim will be recast.

How the insurance companies regard the Muslim as an insurable risk should give us an idea of the enormity of the problem

Fifty years ago, when I was working in Davao City as the Mindanao branch manager of the second largest life insurance company, Muslims (they were called then as Moros) were not, repeat not, insurable.  The rest of the life insurance industry felt exactly the same way.

The ban was based, not on ethnic or religious reasons, but on sound insurance business sense.  For one thing, no insurance company, life or non-life, will issue a policy if it can see that, in case of a claim, all sorts of problems will crop up.

For example, in a death claim, the insurance company wants to make sure (a) the deceased in the one insured under the policy and (b) the claimant is the beneficiary named in the policy.  The company also wants to check the true age of the deceased against the age he stated in the original application.

But a Muslim usually does not have a birth certificate.  Born at home, he was never registered by his parents at the municipio. One wonders whether Nur Misuari himself can prove that he legally exists by means of a valid birth certificate.

The Muslims also do not have the equivalent of the baptismal certificate which Christian churches routinely issue.  Affidavits from two persons who knew when the deceased was born would be acceptable.  But the Muslim affiants would not be able to prove their ages because they also would not be able to present any valid birth certificates.

Even if the identity of the deceased could be proved, identifying the beneficiary (usually the wife, or one of the wives) could also be a problem since there is no equivalent of the Christian marriage certificate.

In the four years I worked in Davao City, the company did not appoint one single agent in all of Mindanao.  I do not remember any application for life insurance from any Muslim.  I am sure the other companies operating in Mindanao at that time had exactly the same experience.

Today, the ban is no longer absolute; identification is a lesser problem probably because more Muslims are born in hospitals.  But life insurance companies will look at the few applications received from Muslims very, very carefully.

A new problem for the insurance companies is the recent finding that the average life expectancy of the Muslims is 12 years shorter than the national average.  The actuary can compute a higher premium for Muslims but this would be bad for public relations.

It would not do for a life insurance companies to bend underwriting rules to accommodate a Muslim.  The mathematics of life insurance operations require that the risks or the lives insured are alike.  A company can ignore this concept only at its own great peril.

The continuing practice of life insurance companies to screen an application from a Muslim much more strictly that one from a Christian is not racial or religious discrimination. It stems from ice-cold, unrelenting mathematics.

The non-life insurance companies also have very strict regulations on the acceptance of business from Muslims.

For example, many companies rarely issue personal accident policies to Muslims.  In those rare cases where a company accommodates a Muslim applicant (usually one who is well-known in the community), the sum insured would be very small and the policy will not be extended to cover murder and assault.  Rightly or wrongly, death or disability by murder and assault is seen as more probable on a Muslim than on a Christian.

Some companies simply do not write personal accident business at all on anybody, Muslim or Christian, living in Muslim-dominated areas like Lanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Fire insurance presents its own set of problems.  To qualify for fire insurance, a building must be well-kept.  Whether he deserves it or not, a Muslim has a reputation for poor housekeeping.

About 30 years ago, the Muslim rebels burned down most of the commercial area of Jolo. No one, Christian or Muslim, collected on his fire insurance policy because fire damage as a result of rebellion was not covered.  Afterwards, the Insurance Commission persuaded the non-life companies (all Christians) to set up what is called the Security Fund.  Fire losses resulting from any rebel activity are paid from this fund provided the victim carries the basic fire insurance coverage.  This fund still exists and continues to grow.

As far as I know, none of the fire victims in the Ipil raid by Muslim rebels some years ago claimed against the fund.  This means none of the victims carried any fire insurance probably because no insurance company was willing to cover any building in Ipil in the first place.

A simple third party liability claim resulting from a motor vehicle accident could be messy.  Some years back, I had a client who was operating a cargo truck in Iligan City.  One day, while the truck was out on its regular rout, a 12-year old Muslim boy got on the rear of the truck without the knowledge of the driver.  Why the truck was turning on a sharp curve, the boy fell off, cracked his skull on the pavement and died.  The father did not want to negotiate the settlement without consulting his datu.  The datu said he had to gather the entire clan to discuss the case.  My client was expected to foot the bill for the pow-wow which included the cost of a couple of carabaos that will be slaughtered for their meat.  Instead, my client asked the help of a friend who was also a datu.  Eyeball to eyeball, the two datus agreed to a cash settlement.  To this day, that case remains as one of the most unusual cases in my files.

Because of this reluctance by the insurance companies to accept business from Muslims, few of our Muslim brothers have enjoyed the benefits of insurance.  Also the insurance companies do not harness the savings of the Muslim community so that these can be invested to help build the nation.

The insurance companies (all of them can be classed as Christian) view the Muslim as too risky to insure.  This not only a hard-nosed assessment of the physical risks involved but may be the result of the centuries-old, cultural gap between Christian and Muslim.

To integrate Christian and Muslim, that yawning gap has got to be narrowed, if not closed.  Misuari has been allowed to shoot his way into the corridors of power. But what is more important is to close that cultural gap so that Christian and Muslim will live and work together in peace and mutual respect.

Then, the Muslim will finally be insurable. It is a goal that we should look forward to because one of the major characteristics of any modern, bustling society is that most of its members qualify for, and do carry, a great deal of all sorts of insurance.

The Davao pact will be the first real step on a journey toward peace at last …. Fasten your seat belts, folks.  It will be a long and bumpy ride.  Let us all pray that, in the end, all will be well.

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INSURING YOUR COMPUTER

If you have a laptop, you can get a floater policy which covers the unit anywhere you bring it.  This policy insures against “all risks of direct physical loss or damage from any external cause”.  Do not get carried away by the term “all risks”.  The policy includes a long list of exceptions such as wear and tear, corrosion, mechanical breakdown, strikes, riots, civil commotion, and so on, and so on.

If you have a desktop, you can include it in the policy covering your household or office contents.  Or you can get an All Risks policy as on the laptop.

If you have a mainframe, then any of the policies especially designed for mainframe is best.  Some companies cal it Electronic Equipment Insurance.  Others go by the name Computer All Risks policy.  Whatever the name, the policies are basically the same.

First, the policy covers hardware which is defines as “those parts of the electronic data or word processing installation including the central processing unit, storage devices, control console, disc drives, magnetic tape transports, power pact and all input or output equipment, operating under the direct control of or connected to the central processing unit, and associated air conditioning equipment”.

Second, the policy covers software, which means “tapes, disks, magnetic cards or other material used to carry data in a form directly assimiliable by” the hardware.  Invoices, bills or other documents from which the input data is pro, and printouts are not considered software.

Third, at your option, the policy can pay you the cost of labor employed or fees or other charges, calculated on the basis of standard rates, paid by  you for the purpose of reinstating data following a covered loss.  This includes not only the cost of reinstating data on to software, lost because of damage to the software itself, failure of electricity, or damage to the compute and attendant equipment. But also the considerable cost involved in collecting the data all over again from various sources.

Finally, you can have the policy extended to include “increased cost of working.”  If your mainframe is damages by a peril insured under the policy, you may have to hire computer time at an outside installation.  The additional cost will be paid under a rather complicated formula.  You will also be reimbursed for any “reasonable charges payable by you to professional accountants or auditors for producing any particulars or details or any proofs, information or evidence” required by the insurance company to prove your claim.

If you are in the business of hiring out mainframe, you also need Loss of Gross Profit or Loss of Revenue cover.  As the name implies, the policy will pay you for loss of gross profit or revenue over the period your mainframe is being repaired or replaced following damage or loss covered under the policy.

All policies warrant that the hardware be covered by a maintenance agreement at all times when the policy is in force.  This means that you cannot buy this policy unless a maintenance agreement is in force at the start of the policy, and if the agreement expires during the term of the policy, the coverage is automatically cancelled.

Buying a computer policy is not a do-it-yourself job, given the need to tailor the policy to the particular installation.  It is best to get professional help.  Call an insurance broker.

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