He and his wife are regular working stiffs. They own a modest town home in a 60,000 person community in Central Florida. October 7th of this past year was certainly a ‘day of reckoning’ for them. Hurricane Mathew exploded onto their home, as they and their two little kittens were hunkered down in the master bedroom. The ever increasing sound of the approaching 100 mph winds accompanying monsoon type rain frightened the hell out of all of them. The poor little kittens, this couple’s babies, were crying inside their carriers in the master bathroom. He and his wife were on the floor, praying that this would all pass by quickly. The husband literally crawled to the rear window and slowly lifted up the shade. He could see the pine trees, just yards away from the window, waving to and fro, almost bending back and forth! He looked over to his wife and made the mistake of saying to her “I’m afraid a tree is going to break through the window and kill us all!” Perhaps five minutes later they were startled by this tremendous bang, like if a bomb had exploded on their roof! A pine tree had just crushed the truss and the roof, right into their upstairs bedroom, just above them! Before they could even hurry upstairs to assess the damage, the water was literally running down the walls of the master bedroom and bathroom. His wife ran to the garage and pulled the breakers as he ran to the kitchen to get a few pots to catch the monsoon rainwater. The two of them spent the next two hours using every towel and comforter in the house to soak up the flood from their two bedrooms and bathrooms. It took them another hour to get the courage to run out to their parked car outside with a few belongings, and of course those two precious kittens. You see, outside of their home the pine trees were still waving back and forth, as if to warn them “You try to leave and we’ll crush through your car!” Food for thought: Can one only imagine how those poor creatures feel when our drone missiles or carpet bombs (or ‘Mother of All’) are raining down on them?
The couple had to rent a place until their home was repaired. Their insurance company, as with others servicing Florida at the time, did as little as possible in way of financial help. They assessed the damage through their adjuster, and then gave a figure for repairs much lower than what the couple’s contractor had come up with. As always, the truth is somewhere in between, isn’t it? When the couple could not even get any reimbursement for their perished or damaged belongings, or for the rent they now had to pay, it was time to hire a public adjuster. The public adjuster would get 10% of any money he was able to receive from the insurance company, and this seemed the only way to proceed for the couple. As far as any medical aid needed, the homeowner’s policy did not cover it. Problem was, the wife (10 years younger than him) had only a hospitalization plan that they could barely afford under ObamaCare. The husband had just been ‘released’ by his family doctor of 15 years because the doctor stopped participating with Humana, his Medicare supplemental provider. At the time of the hurricane, he had not yet been able to find a replacement doctor in his area. Normally, this would not be so urgent, except… his wife was now having terrible panic attacks– so much so that on some days she could not leave her bedroom! He was having insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome in addition to his own anxiety. They did use a wonderful doctor of Chinese medicine for acupuncture treatments for many years, so they went to him for help. Between the weekly acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbs, they both found much relief. Since neither insurance would cover their visits, the couple sent claims into FEMA, with proper documentation of diagnosis and treatment charges and receipts. FEMA rejected them… not once but on several occasions. The reasons given kept changing with each appeal by the couple. First, it was that proof was needed that their insurance companies did not cover acupuncture. That was given. Then, FEMA came up with the excuse that treatments needed to be done by a medical doctor. When the couple showed how reputable the Chinese medicine physician was, and how long he practiced in the community (over 18 years) FEMA then said that each of the couple’s family doctors needed to refer them for treatment. This went on and on for months, until… the husband contacted Senator Nelson’s office. He was lucky that a staff member saw the need for FEMA to help with the medical bills (now in the thousands of dollars) for the treatments. After the Senator’s office followed up with FEMA, just like magic the reimbursement came… not in entirety, but enough to help.
Now, it is over 6 months since the disaster. The couple’s public adjuster could not get anywhere with the insurance company as to any further money expected. All they reimbursed for was the rent, and even then no official accounting was sent to the couple. OH, and that was only achieved because the husband had put in a formal complaint with the Florida Insurance Commission, and of course Senator Nelson’s office was copied at the bottom of the letter. Meanwhile, the insurance company still would not address the need for reimbursement of the couple’s damaged and destroyed belongings, or of course the public adjuster’s estimates for repairs. The couple had to hire an attorney, one who specializes in these insurance conflicts. A suit was filed and they have to wait for a mediation and court date etc. They were able to move back into their home, but it still needs more in way of repairs. Their contractor did his best, but said truthfully that he needs to wait for a financial resolution before he can continue. So, in addition to a quantity of items on their ‘punch list’, the couple is missing two bathroom vanities in the house.
What can be learned from all this? Number one, there is very little government oversight on how insurance companies operate. More than that, the lesson here is that we should not have to live in a society whereupon any sort of insurance is of a ‘for profit’ nature. What most insurance really comes down to is a ‘gamble’ on what bad can happen to someone, and how to protect that someone. Why cannot all insurance be owned and operated by the government, local, state or federal? The costs for a nonprofit or very low-profit such enterprise would be much lower for the consumer. Why should the CEOs and top execs earn literally tens of millions why we all struggle along? Number two, FEMA obviously does not have the funding it needs to operate efficiently and fairly. Why? Well, Uncle Sam is too consumed with using over HALF of your federal tax revenue for military spending. Look it up. One soldier kept in Iraq or Afghanistan for one-year costs we taxpayers… are you ready for this… over one million dollars per year! How many families could FEMA aid with that money after a disaster? In essence, FEMA is a giant public relations con job, doing as little as it can get away with… or NOT AT ALL!
The safety net we all were taught to cherish is being taken away in many areas of life, as I write. The new Trump/Republican health care bill will see to it that many of the very foolish people who stood on the street corners, or carry his stickers on their cars and trucks, will one day be shocked when they or their relatives can no longer get into a nursing home via Medicaid. Or when their so-called ‘free market’ health insurance coverage hits them with even higher deductibles and premiums. One Trump supporter this writer knows was complaining that his 80-year-old father has to pay $ 3000 monthly to stay in an assisted living facility. Wait until his old man needs to go into a nursing home!!
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