Insurance Company Tactics That Cost Us All

Yesterday, I got a visit from a former client of Harry Lewis. By former, I mean thirty years ago! This gentleman was a nice guy, not very intelligent, worked hard, but struggled to keep things together. This gentleman had been hit riding his bicyle to work by a Nationwide insured driver. The client went over the handlebars and smashed his face into the pavement. He was wearing a helmet, but it did not help him. The client went to the emergency room, was x-rayed and released with advice to follow up with an orthopaedist. He was pretty banged up, and probably had a fractured scapula. The next day, he got a call from a “helpful” Nationwide adjuster, who told him he would take care of him, get him a new bike ($150.00), and pay him $3,000.00 for his trouble. The client was taken in by the “nice” and “helpful” adjuster and, long story short, accepted $3,000.00 and signed a general release. He was told that would take care of everything. Here’s the problem: The client has no health insurance (not that it matters, health insurance and Medicaid/Medicare will subrogate) and has, from the hospital, over $3,000.00 in medical bills. When our client got the bill a few days later, he panicked and sent the entire $3,000.00 to the hospital. Now what? This guy has no insurance, needs more treatment, and still has bills to pay. He’s missing lots of work. His rent is behind now. He comes to see me. I tell him, “you’ve got 14 days to rescind the release, but you have to pay the $3,000.00 back.” “I don’t have it, the hospital does,” he tells me. This man does not have $3,000.00 laying around in a bank account. He can’t reach his “home equity line of credit” for the money, the guy is what politicians would call the “working poor.” Now the hospital balance won’t get paid either, probably. Nationwide, in this case, did a good job for its admittedly negligent driver. It got a release for $3,000.00. It pays no more. But that does not mean reality has changed. My client will need more medical treatment, and who will pay? My client? It is not his fault some idiot didn’t stop at a stop sign. Medicare? Why should taxpayers subsidize Nationwide? The behavior of Nationwide fits the insurance company/Republican rationalization. They want everyone to believe there is a level playing field. They want everyone to beleive that everyone is a rational actor, and everyone has the same educational level, experience, and training. That is not reality. What happened to this client: a sophisticated/trained insurance adjuster convinced an uneducated, unsophisticated victim, who is hurt and needing substantial medical care, to accept $3,000.00 to pay for medical expenses, lost wages and other damages. Oh, and $150.00 for a new bike. This adjuster made my client think he was being taken care of, when in reality he was being taken advantage of by the insurance industry. Now, my client, because he signed away his rights, will have to struggle to get back to normal. He’ll probably miss some rent payments, miss paying some doctors, and get some unemployment. Look who else is losing out — a landlord, a doctor, and some taxpayers. All because Nationwide wants a quick, cheap out for its insured, rather than stepping up and paying for the damage done. The Republican/insurance industry apologists will blame my client. “It’s his fault for not looking out for himself,” they will say. Well, Katrina taught us how quickly we can all be at the mercy of the insurance industry, including the Republican/insurance industrym apologists themselves.

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