The flood of 2013, Chicago's skyline, Obamacare and what ails America

One of Chicago’s many claims to architectural fame is the Home Insurance Building, America’s first skyscraper. At only 10 stories it was the first tall building to use vertical columns and horizontal beams for support, allowing for a windowed structure about 1/3 the weight of a masonry building. It was designed in 1885 by engineer William LeBarron Jenny and demolished in 1931 to make way for what is now the LaSalle Bank Building at 135 S. LaSalle St.

Insurance companies have contributed many structures to our skyline since, paying homage to a great city and their own fiscal prowess. Those names include United Insurance, New York Life, London Guarantee, Atlas Insurance, Equitable Life and the ever-looming Prudential and John Hancock buildings. As the acrimonious debate over Obamacare continues, I’m reminded of something my dad once said after I took a job selling insurance for Pacific Mutual. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something to the effect that the insurance companies have all the money. I think about that from time to time, especially when I’m watching TV and every other commercial is promising to save me $500 on my car insurance or by bundling all my insurance into one mega-policy.

Health insurance is inherently rife with conflicts of interest. As for-profit corporations, insurance companies have a responisibility to their shareholders and to their owners to make money. Toward that end, protocol often dictates out-of-hand denial of claims. People are actually paid to sit at their desks and stamp “DENIED” on claims without ever having considered them. I was dismayed at how quickly President Obama abandoned a single payer option to get passage of his health care initiative. Win or lose, I think that arguement needs to be brought to the public forum.

As in every system, there are loopholes which are often exploited in the most egregious manner while staying well below the radar. In the case described below, it seems that it’s done with the blessings of both the insurers and the State of Illinois and it was the recent monsoon that brought it to my attention.

After discovering 6 inches of water covering my entire (finished) basement floor, we called the usual suspects, ie Service Master, who was calling in people and equipment from all over the country. A local guy responded by sending over a couple of workers to pull up my thoroughly soaked carpet, remove all the wet stuff and pack up everything else before they began cutting out the bottom two feet of every single wall. Estimates for just that part of the work ranged from $5,000 to $10,000. It will cost about $10,000 to restore the walls, another $10,000 to re-carpet (or put down waterproof tile) and another $30,000 or so to replace the ruined content. Let’s call it an even $60,000. That’s a lot of $$$ and we’re fortunate that our insurance guy (Zenon Brandys) wrote us a policy 15 years ago that will cover it. ¬†And that, my friends would be a happy ending to a very grueling week.

Our reconstruction guy, though has a better idea. He wants me to authorize his partner as our public adjuster. If you’ve never heard the term, I suggest you google it (note “google” has now achieved common usage). By authorizing the public adjuster to negotiate my claim with the insurance company, I would be signing over 25%-40% of the adjustment to him. These guys think they can finesse my claim up to $100,000 just for the removal and repair work, of which they will get $25,000. ¬†Depending on the actual cost of the work, I could receive a “bonus” of $10,000 to $35,000 pocket money. That $100,000, by the way is over and above whatever I work out with the insurance company to replace my couches, etc. Good work, if you can get it, huh?

Not to belabor the point, but because I’m still incredulous, the sole purpose of the public adjuster would be to inflate my claim so he (the adjuster) could make a big, fat fee. As an incentive, they’ll throw me a little bone once it’s all said done. The State of Illinois licenses them and the insurance companies sign off on it. Still think insurance reform is Socialism? You know what they say: You’re in good hands with Geico, Nationwide, Allstate, Farmers, State Farm…..etc., etc., etc.

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