Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tropical Storm Sandy: Every Insurance Companies' Nasty October Surprise?

Had been dubbed as the “Frankenstorm” since it arrived in U.S. territorial waters, does the exorbitant insurance payouts of Tropical Storm Sandy’s devastation be the nasty October Surprise for all insurance companies concerned?

By: Ringo Bones

As Tropical Storm Sandy, despite being classified as a “mere” Category I Hurricane since it arrived in U.S. territorial waters, it had since been dubbed Frankenstorm by the press and is fast becoming the meteorological phenomena of the decade as it sparked scientific interest as the preexisting weather in the East Coast of the United States conspired to create a thousand-mile-wide “perfect storm” hitherto unseen since meteorological records began. While the “famed” storm is still strengthening, will Tropical Storm Sandy be the October Surprise to the insurance companies concerned currently still ill prepared to cough-up monstrous pay-outs?

“Super-Storm” Sandy’s devastation had indeed been unprecedented so far in the U.S. East Coast. Though tragic deaths in such natural disasters is considered one death too many, Sandy’s death toll had reached 20 in the United States as it claimed 69 lives when it hit the Caribbean last week – with Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba being the hardest hit. Even Cuban president Raul Castro is still visiting the other far-flung areas in Cuba devastated last week by Tropical Storm Sandy. And don't forget the actuarial cost of those hundreds of commercial scheduled flights in the US East Coast that had to be cancelled in the wake of  Tropical Storm Sandy. Though from an actuarial perspective, the frequency of occurrence of such once-in-a-lifetime "perfect storms" / "Frankenstorms" are still exceedingly rare.  

With insurance payouts via flood insurance and storm damage insurance claims alone projected to reach well over 20 billion US dollars, Tropical Storm Sandy managed to close the New York Stock Exchange for two days now. The last time the NYSE was closed for this length of time was back in 1888. In terms of infrastructure damage, the state of New York could be the hardest hit so far as the New York City’s subway system are now flooded by as much as 4 feet of seawater and most of its power grid had been shut down by Sandy. It even caused a fire in Queens, New York that destroyed 50 homes while neighboring states, like New Jersey, had been brought to a virtual standstill when storm surges flooded main roads making them impassable by conventional road vehicles.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Does Your Professional Group Health Insurance Cover Internet Addiction Therapy?

Even though the sheer usefulness of the internet had brought us good things like e-commerce and closer social connectivity, but should we be protected from the negative effects of “internet addiction”?

By: Ringo Bones

Back around the middle of August 2012, Time magazine published an article on a recent study revolving around “internet addiction” or “online addiction”. Believe it or not, of the ones’ surveyed, 84% who own internet connected mobile devices can’t go on a single day without checking their various social network updates. While a third of them suffers some form of psychological anxiety attack if they can’t check the status of their social networks on a daily basis. Given that a growing number of us – especially those working for advertising firms – where the information superhighway of the internet is their primary workplace be provided some form of occupational health coverage – i.e. a health insurance policy that provides coverage for internet addiction therapy or rehab?

Though what constitutes internet addiction is still, at present, too broad and somewhat vague to be seriously considered by most occupational health insurance providers, some leading authorities on internet addiction in Europe, like Germany’s Dr. Klaus W√∂lfling who is the current vice leader of the Interdisciplinary Addiction Group Berlin, has already collected enough data to prove that internet addiction – like other substance and behavioral addictions – is a real but treatable psychological disorder. The still fledgling internet addiction treatment center in Charit√© Hospital in Berlin now caters for the rehab of persons in their teens that are hooked on massive multi-player online role playing games.

Even though therapeutic and rehab regimen for internet addiction may still be in its infancy, there are already occupational health insurance policies already in existence that can easily be tailored to accommodate for the costs of internet addiction therapy. As far back as the post World War II economic boom in America and Western Europe, there already exists the proviso of the group accident and health protection insurance coverage in the form of professional group insurance tailored to certain professional groups – such as doctors, dentists, and pharmacists that had since been developed and widely marketed by insurance providers.

Usually such plans are written through the professional association and restricted to members. Premiums are paid by the individual directly to the company and frequently at a lower rate than for individual policies with the same benefits. The group policy may be non-cancellable for individual members but may be cancelled for the whole society if the company finds its experience unsatisfactory. Similar group accident and health policies are issued to unions for their members.

But what about those whose occupations or professions that require surfing the internet on a daily basis, like those in the advertising industry checking out the day’s leading social media trends or those whose are paid to beta test massive multiplayer online roll playing games for bugs, shouldn’t they too have a “professional group insurance policy” that covers rehab for internet addiction psychotherapy? Maybe such professional group insurance with health coverage on the cost of internet addiction therapy already exists out there, but they might be not as widely marketed in comparison to policies that don’t cover internet addiction rehab.    

Monday, October 8, 2012

Telecommunications Security Risk Insurance, Anyone?

Weary of DDOS attacks crashing your nation’s internet infrastructure – what if the telecommunications systems you are currently using is the very one spying on your nation’s top secret data?

By: Ringo Bones

This just in, a US Congressional Panel just issued a draft report warning that two Mainland Chinese telecommunications firms – Huawei and ZTE pose a security risk to the United States’ internet infrastructure. Given that every sovereign country with a beef on the Beijing government’s human rights and Tibet issue has been weary of DDOS attacks by the Beijing 50-Cent Cyber Army for a number of years now, imagine if your country’s telecommunications equipment supporting the internet infrastructure has really, really close ties with the Beijing government. Your government’s most closely guarded secrets could wind up as “Chinese Takeout” to the world’s leading terror groups like Al Qaeda or rogue states like Iran and Syria.

The US Congressional House Security Committee has genuine concerns when the two biggest Mainland Chinese telecommunications firms started making inroads into the United States because Huawei and ZTE were founded by a high-ranking veteran of the Mainland Chinese People’s Liberation Army back in 1987 and Huawei is the world’s second largest manufacturer of data routers. Imagine the Beijing government having direct access to a kill-switch running an enemy nation’s internet infrastructure never mind the very telecommunications hardware itself is doing the spying for the Beijing government.

The draft report of the US Congressional House Security Committee recommends that not only Huawei and ZTE be allowed mergers with US telecommunication firms currently under contract by the US Department of Defense or other very sensitive US government branches with “top secret” data vital to maintaining national security but also bans sale of telecommunications equipment manufactured by the two named Mainland Chinese telecommunications firms. Given that Mainland China excels at manufacturing cut-price electronic equipment, here’s an instance on where penny-pinching could have a very grave consequence. Does your telecommunications security risk insurance cover such eventuality?