I am a resident of a small town in eastern Canada in the province of New Brunswick. As a Canadian citizen, I was not always attuned to the role that health insurance played in a socialized system of health care. I had learned in school that my parents paid health care premiums, a form of health care insurance in addition to additional health insurance coverage for our families’ additional needs like dental and travel insurance.
As I learned more about economics in school and factors affecting supply and demand relationships, I often found myself pondering the role of insurance as part of this relationship. I recognized that insurance was not something tangible like a consumer product and its value was not truly understood until it was utilized in times of varying needs from simple forms of reimbursement to large tragic event like natural disasters or sudden death. I also noticed that many news and magazine publications had advertisements for varying forms of insurance. Automobile, extended health, critical life insurance and travel insurance were all examples of the types of products that I had come across unwittingly.
Insurance is a product that I did not think about until something tragic happened in my family. In December 2015, my father was diagnosed with a form of cancer called Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He had to go for a series of diagnostic tests, blood work, and two surgeries. After his second surgery, his surgical site became infected and he was admitted to hospital for a week and had a nurse visit him every day at home afterwards for 3 weeks. In addition, he started chemotherapy and received treatment for approximately 2 years. At no point in all of his care did he have to pay one bill for his health care nor worry about making decisions related to financing his health due to his health insurance and extended benefit coverage which allowed him additional assistance such as counselling, massage therapy and payment of his medications.
I had a long discussion with my dad about how his insurance (our government insurance plan and his work plan of extended insurance benefits) worked. He explained to me that insurance is much like planning for a rainy day. He explained that he had insurance, not just for himself, but for me, my mom and my brother. He bluntly stated that he would not be able to use it when he dies; however, he was insuring our future by assisting us with finances to replace that which he could not make if he were to die and to insure that we would not go broke if any of us were to get sick. He also stated that it was a small investment right now to insure that we would not go broke whenever something were to happen.
We spoke of instances that we had both witnessed whereby individuals who were not fortunate enough to have insurance were left bankrupt or in a position of having to make difficult decisions about their future. My dad also told me about a physician he had worked with at a hospital who was too arrogant to invest in malpractice insurance and was successfully sued for wrongdoing. It cost him well over a million dollars and if he had insurance, it would only have been a fraction of the cost.
So why is insurance important to me? I believe that insurance is a form of security. While some may suggest it is buying something that you may never have to use, it is a form of payment for security against future losses and security of mind that your affairs will be taken care of in the event of an emergency or a tragedy such as what my family went through. I cannot register a car where I live without proving that the vehicle is adequately insured. The local authorities are ensuring that I have purchased security against my own mistakes or the mistakes of others and that there is coverage and accountability should there be damages.
Insurance is also a form of representation. If someone were to hit my mom’s car while I was sitting in a parking lot, I could get the information, report it to the police and my insurance company and then they would follow up with the offender’s insurance company to ensure that I received proper payment and coverage for the damages that I had incurred by no fault of my own.
While I recognize that it must be challenging to sell products that are not tangible, the insurance industry has an important role to protect businesses and families against present and future losses. I know how grateful I was for the care that my dad received and the fact that it did not affect him financially. I would hope that others believe in the value of insurance despite the fact that they never know when their rainy day is coming.
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