Insurance is an ancient practice in the most literal sense of the word. Its earliest origin can be pin pointed to an early Babylonian artifact widely recognized as Hammarabi’s code. According to this set of laws, debtors were to be forgiven of debt in the event of a personal catastrophe of any kind. Seems like pretty merciful leniency, don’t you think? So, where did we go wrong?
There is something very “love your neighbor” about the idea of spreading risk over a community of people to protect individuals (which is exactly what insurance does). So why doesn’t it seem that way anymore?
You see back in the day (like WAY back in the day), “insurance” was simply a pool of resources that all members of a community contributed to and from which all could draw from in the event of disaster. That worked out well because those who oversaw the pool of money (guilds) were the same people pooling money, so there wasn’t an issue of profit and greed.
These days, we pool money and then hand the pool off to some third party to divvy it out. The big issue is that these guys want to keep the money. And they want to keep more money than just a standard wage.
Some of you may plead: “But what about the risk that the company is taking!?” Well, technically the company isn’t taking on any more risk than a standard company. The money they’re gambling with isn’t even theirs. Insurance companies work tirelessly to convince you to purchase their product and then work even harder not to provide you with that product. We’d call that theft in any other situation. But perhaps that’s the problem: that we trust companies to take care of people in their most vulnerable stages of life.
Perhaps tragedy shouldn’t be profitable, and maybe helping one another bear the more unpredictable burdens in life shouldn’t be turned into some twisted version of a Vegas roulette game. After all, the house always wins right?
There are even hired professionals called actuaries who use math and statistics to calculate your life’s worth in dollars. Oh yes, this is why insurance companies do senseless things like cover symptomatic treatments, rather than problem-solving surgeries. It’s cheaper, man. I’m taking a statistics class this semester and have to admit that I find statistics fascinating. They can tell us anything. Or, at least, they give us a hell of an estimation. Stats are cool; using those stats to scam people of out millions of dollars: not cool.
But have hope, young padawans! There are a couple of solutions that could change it all. The first, most obvious, solution is to rid ourselves of the greed that has infected our societies, this mental illness the Native Americans called “wetiko,” or taking of more than we need.
Or, some banker of some kind can strike a deal with lawmakers to allow the public to hold proof of a personal insurance account instead of mandating insurance through a corporate entity (i.e., a slightly monitored group or guild-shared savings account for the purpose of insuring oneself). It’d be a win-win for the bank and customers, but with the severe health care gouging caused by the overuse of insurance in the past, that’d be a little naïve to assume it’d work in all places.
Regardless, it is pretty clear that things are going to have to get much, much worse before we all finally wake up and demand that things get better. We created the economy (a socially constructed phenomena), just as we’ve created this idea of insurance. So, to act as if insurance is an entity that is beyond human control is maybe a more naive idea than that of a world without corporate greed.