August 2013 - Susman
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Cherry-Flavored SUV

Working as an insurance agent in Los Angeles, one gets to see some pretty crazy stuff. Like the time I got called out after a guy drove a car into his pool in Malibu; I had to assess both his vehicle and his property for damage. Then there was the night some girl went crazy and knocked the side mirrors off her boyfriend’s truck before breaking out his windshield with a baseball bat; that girl had one wicked swing.

My all-time favorite though was the morning I went out to assess an SUV that had supposedly been involved in some sort of flood. Of course I was immediately suspicious as Southern California isn’t exactly prone to that issue but off I went with my clipboard and camera in tow to follow-up on the claim. I pulled up next to this incredible three-story house, walked up the huge curving driveway and knocked on the door. After a minute, a blond in her mid-forties wearing way too much makeup pulls open the door and flashes me this perfect, bleached smile.

“You must be the insurance man,” she gushed.

“Yes ma’am,” I replied. “I’m here about your SUV.”

“It’s such a mess!” she exclaimed as she stepped outside. “It was just a terrible flood!”

She clicked the garage remote as she spoke and I waited as the door slowly rolled up to reveal a very innocent looking white SUV. From the outside, everything appeared to be perfectly normal. Then she opened the tailgate. Though it was obvious that the upholstery in the car had once been white, it was now tinted with a very vibrant cherry stain. She stepped out of the way, shaking her head at the damage and I moved in for a closer look. It took only an instant to see that the unusual reddish color had not only soaked through the back part of the car, but extended all the way up to the front as well; it had even dyed the creases of the leather seats. I went through the entire car but other than a faint cherry-scented odor and the new interior color, I couldn’t see anything wrong with it.

“You said this happened in a flood?” I asked as I returned to the owner.

“Yes, it was awful!” she exclaimed.

I cleared my throat. “Exactly what kind of flood was it? We haven’t had any rain…” I began but then trailed off. There wasn’t any such thing as cherry-colored rain anyway.

“Oh it wasn’t that kind of a flood,” she explained, with a shake of her head.

“Well, what kind of a flood was it then?” I pressed when she didn’t go on.

“It was punch-mix.”

“Pardon me?” I asked after a moment of silent shock.

“Punch mix,” she repeated as if I was hard of hearing. “Cherry-flavored punch mix.”

“How did cherry punch mix flood your car?” I asked after another minute of surprise.

“It’s what was in the giant inflatable pool that popped. I was parked right next to it.”

I stared down at my clipboard, realizing that I was in for a very long story.

“Ask a stupid question…,” I muttered to myself.

Cool Facts!

California is the nation’s most populated state. With nearly 40 million residents, California has more occupants than Canada. No wonder Canada behaves so well; no man power. Can you imagine being responsible for forty million people? The Prime Minister of Canada can’t. No wonder the Governors in that state of California are always flipping out. Just kidding! Then there are so many diverse backgrounds to deal with. With California being a “minority” “majority” state, for those that don’t know that means that means the state has more minorities than they do whites, which are the majority in America.

For an insurance actuary, dealing with such diversity must be quite a challenge. Insurance actuaries have the tough job of measuring the risks associated with insuring different people in different ways. How does this play out for an actuary that is determining the baseline premiums for a city like Santa Monica or Pacific Palisades, for instance? Wait…who in the world names these cities? I often wonder about that. Don’t get me wrong, I think Pacific Palisades is a cool name, but I would like to interview the person who named it.

Okay back to the actuary. What happens in Pacific Palisades that would have any true negative impact on the insurance premiums in that town? If it seems that I am asking a lot of questions, that is what people do when they don’t anything. Under normal circumstances, Pacific Palisades would get extremely low premiums, but they are in brush fire laden California. Have I ever mentioned the fact that I have this theory that all of the brush fires in California are started by the same person? They say that the majority of these fires are started by campers or someone tossing a cigarette. Personally, I just don’t think that it’s that many dunces in California. Given, there is the possibility that there could be an imported dunce or two from another state.

You would think that people that have any knowledge of this state would know better than to be irresponsible with fire. Okay, granted, some of the fires are started by lightning strikes. Well, I am not going to touch that one. God can throw lightening bold wherever He so chooses.

This leads me back to my original theory. I think that there is this one person that has nothing better to do than to go around starting brush fires. Before you go off trying to debunk my theory, please understand that I have put a lot of time and thought into this and I have considered all of the possibilities. Just let me make it on this one and we all will be a whole lot happier.

I promise that it was not my intention to spend so much time discussing the Brush Fire Bandit. It was my intent to take a couple of shots at Los Angeles. What is a conversation about California and insurance if you don’t take a couple of shots at LA? Maybe I will give Los Angeles a pass this time around; then again, maybe not. If anyone ever asks you to give a valid reason for having insurance, any type of insurance, simply take them on a short trip to LA. You don’t even have to say anything.

What If?

Have you ever had one of those days in which you had too much idle time on your hands? You know exactly what I am talking about. It is one of those times when your thoughts are having thoughts. You turn around for no reason and say, huh? No one really said anything, the thought you just had was that stupid. You spend the next hour attempting to convince yourself you’re your thoughts aren’t random as they are. Guess what? Your thoughts are not only random, they are outright ridiculous.

I had one of those days recently. I am sitting there thinking and my thoughts are beginning to take on a life of their own. To avoid a catatonic meltdown, I shifted gears and went into an elevated state of thinking. I am talking about Socratic and Platonic type thoughts. You know those “what if” moments. I know that I am supposed to be talking about Insurance in California, just hold on.

As I began to ponder all of the “what ifs” that were going through my mind, I was totally humbled by the fact that I could entertain myself with such empty reasoning. Below you will find some of the questions that ran across my mind during this period of deep thought.

  1. What if it really never rained in Southern California?
  2. What if the same person is responsible for starting all of the forest fires in California?
  3. What if 90210 made another come back?
  4. What if the security personnel at LAX had to get real jobs?
  5. What if the W hotel really did provide anything, anytime, anywhere? Hum?
  6. What if Kobe Bryant…Naw, forget that one.

These are only a few thoughts that went through my mind, but then I realized that my thoughts weren’t as incoherent as I initially believed. First, if it really never rained in Southern California, there would be a drought, which would lead to dried out brush. This would lead to brush fires that are started by the same person every time. The fire would be so destructive that it would eventually destroy Hollywood, meaning that the next 90210 comeback would be postponed (this is called an act of God, or better yet, Divine Intervention).

LAX would eventually fall in the fire and those lazy security officers at the airport would be forced to get real jobs.

Amidst all of the chaos, someone at the W would pick up their room phone and press the “anything, anytime, anywhere” button to find that everyone was gone. Even Kobe Bryant…wait a minute, I said that I was going to leave Kobe alone. Boy I am tempted, but he’s my favorite player in the NBA.

As you are playing out this chaotic mess in your head, consider the fact that I only listed 6 questions out of about a hundred. Can you imagine what would have happen to the state of California if I listed them all? Now someone is sitting there thinking, “What in the world does this have to do with insurance?” A response like that just confirms to me that you were not paying attention. Everybody involved in this scenario needs some type of insurance. I would tell you how, but you need to figure some of this out on your own.

4 Tips on Choosing Good Health Insurance in California

There are a lot of health insurance options out there, but with so many different kinds of coverage, insurance gimmicks and jargon from insurance agents that sounds like a terms from a different planet, it is hard to know whether you’re buying health insurance to live by, or die from! To help you sort through the maze here are some helpful tips to let you know what to expect and what you are getting when you sign up.

Grandfather Exemptions

Yes! This is real! This occurs when you employer makes no substantial changes to your insurance plan, and, if you are wondering why, it is because this type of insurance is not required to conform to certain required provisions in health reforms laws. This means there will be no copay for preventive services like immunizations, blood pressure testing or smoking cessation programs. It would be a good idea to check with the plan (before the excitement of job acceptance takes over) to see if it is grandfathered and what benefits it does provide.

Make Plan Adjustments

Things never stagnate in an upbeat area like Brentwood Hills! The coverage you paid for and the benefits you received say, five years ago, will need a definite upgrade! An example of this is adding an ‘adult child’ back into your insurance for coverage. Plans are suited to cover children up to the age of 26; but old-fashioned – this refers to grandfathered – plans will exclude the ‘child’ if they are insured through an employer. A good bonus is that children under the age of 18 can no longer be turned down for insurance because of pre-existing ailments like asthma or cancer.

Have a Separate Account for Healthcare Expenses

You can save a big amount on premiums in Malibu if you set up a health care savings account for health financing. When set up correctly a small fee is deducted from your pretax income to finance health savings or flexible spending accounts; this makes for a big help. Both of these have pros and cons however. Health savings accounts must be paired with a high-deductible plan while a flexible spending account can go with all plan types, but you will lose any leftover contributions that go unused by the end of the year. This means you won’t be able to pay for over the counter medications like Tylenol or Prilosec using HSA or FSA dollars without a written note from your doctor. Save yourself the head ache (you can’t afford the Tylenol anyway) and decide which plan best suits you beforehand.

‘Marry’ Your Spouse’s coverage to Yours!

If you spouse or children come under your plan, make sure your boss still gives the same funds toward premiums for family plans. Some companies have made the decision to pay for each dependent separately, in which case ‘Junior’ will be an insurance liability rather than an asset. More and more employers are also adding surcharges for spouses whose employers pay for insurance. In this case, you may find it is better to ‘divorce’ your spouse from the plan – but not from you!

Headed Out West

Many people have called insurance the necessary evil. No one wants to pay for insurance, but everyone has to. Whether you are speaking about medical insurance or automobile insurance, insurance is quite necessary. If you don’t think so, stop making your premium payments on your medical insurance, and then take a trip to the doctor’s office. Please don’t look surprised when the receptionist asks for more than your usual $10.00 co-pay.

Yes, we all need insurance. I don’t think anyone needs insurance more than the people that live in the state of California. California is an insurance haven. There is earthquake related insurance. There is fire insurance (this is very necessary because at some point in your life in California a brush fire is going to threaten your home).

In California you need travel insurance because nothing is close in proximity. If you live in Los Angeles you will needed health insurance because the smog is going to get you.

While on the subject of Los Angeles we might as well discuss auto insurance, because no one there can drive, but everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere. While on the subject of traffic I have to pose a rhetorical question: How is it that the 2nd largest city in America has road construction going on constantly, but the traffic never improves. This is just a little something that boggles my mind.

I hate to keep picking on Los Angeles, but Santa Monica doesn’t register on the insurance Richter scale like Los Angeles. With that being said, if you live anywhere near South Central Los Angeles, you will need life insurance. Don’t be surprised if the premiums are a little higher than normal. You will soon find out why.

Back to earthquakes; why in the world are people literally making plans on retiring to a state in which the ground moves; frequently! No, really, the ground moves! Maybe, I am not being clear enough, the ground moves. In fact, if I was out there I would need extra health insurance because I would be consumed with postulating when the state will fall into the ocean. Who makes predictions like that anyway? Imagine, you are watching the news and the weather guy says, “Today we have sunny skies and no chance of rain. You can expect the high to be around 92, and by the way, look for the state to total fall off into the ocean. Are you kidding me?

How many parents couldn’t get their kids to go to school after something like that?

The truth is that California is an awesome state and next to San Francisco, Los Angeles is my favorite city to visit there, but even in a gorgeous state like California things happen. No, no one wants to give a company money on a just in case scenario, but the alternative is definitely not a good one.

So, we will have to learn how to fork over the cash and smile, because when that accident happens or that surgery is needed, we will be thinking, “Man, I am so glad I got this insurance.” It is always better to be safe than it is to be sorry.

Insurance – Another 4 Letter Word?

Yeah, yeah. There are more than 4 letters in the word "insurance" but when you think about it, think really hard, 4 letter words come to mind. Lets face it. If we didn’t have to have insurance, we wouldn’t pay for it. Accidents, fire, disasters don’t happen to us. They happen to other people. Its on the news. Its in the newspapers. Its on the internet. It isn’t here. Not in your life.

Yeah. Right.

Insurance isn’t anything more than legalized gambling. The insurance people know that something will happen to someone sometime. That’s because they use something called an "actuarial table". This is a mathematical formula that shows how often an accident or a disaster happens. And, for what its worth, it shows how often something can happen to you, based on how you live your life.

For instance, if you drive more than 20 miles to work, you have a higher chance of being involved in a motor vehicle accident than someone who lives less than 20 miles to work. Another example is if your parents lived to be older than 75, the chances are, you’ll live to be older than 75. These factors affect how much you have to pay for automotive insurance and life insurance.

But, insurance is one of those "facts of life". We have to have it even though the odds are we may not ever need it. You drive safe. You are young and healthy. Your home is in a good place. You work hard and are a productive member of society. Why should you take dollars out of your pocket to pay for something as aggravating as auto insurance, homeowners insurance and life insurance?

The reason is: stuff happens. It happens to us, to our homes and to our lives whether we like it or not. That’s why insurance is a good thing, When you are in an accident, a fire happens or even something as fun as a tornado, insurance can help us recover. It may be a pain to deal with the agents and dealing with claims but when that check comes to help pay for car repairs or to help you fix your home, its all worth it. Insurance may not cover everything but it certainly helps to cover the biggest part of it.

You may not like paying for insurance but for cars, the law says we have to have it (in most states.). If you’re buying a home, part of the mortgage agreement says you have to have homeowners. In today’s world, insurance is one of those necessary evils that we all have to deal with. However, having insurance can be the best thing we’ve ever done when worse comes to worst. There are good things and bad things about having to cope with the insurance industry, but on the whole, having insurance means you’re doing everything you can to protect your future. That in and of itself is worth the trouble.

The Exciting Life of an Agent

When people think of insurance, they think of a stuffy office with an agent who sits at a desk and does nothing more than take their money and fill out an endless barrage of forms full of legal terms no one understands. In some cases, that may be true, but there are some agents who prefer not to confine themselves to the office. They understand how important it is to meet the people they serve and interact with them in their own environment. Customers appreciate that and are more likely to buy from an agent who is willing to meet with them on their terms.

Residents who live in Southern California and along the coastline live diverse lifestyles. No matter where they go, agents are bound to see something they will not see anywhere else. Insurance agents are likely to encounter just about anything they can imagine over the span of their career.

Small surf shops to Beverly Hills boutiques, people from every walk of life need insurance of some type. Homeowner’s, auto, life and commercial, an insurance agent has to meet the needs of the people they serve even if that means meeting them at home or wherever it’s convenient. A beach side meeting with a client can offer a beautiful view, as well as a few hours of much needed sunshine and relaxation.

An agent who is willing to help a busy livestock rancher by meeting them at home will be more of an asset than one that makes him leave his duties. The farm is his job and it has to be treated like any other place of employment. An insurance agent that is ready to pay him a visit and share that wonderful "country air" is more likely to earn the man’s respect than one who takes offense to it.

California is a never ending kaleidoscope of individuality. One day an agent could be meeting with an up and coming actor, while the next day they may be called to file a claim for someone who was involved in an accident in the suburbs. With such a vast amount of diversity, it’s to the agent’s benefit to keep track shoes close at hand. The environment can be just as diverse as an agent’s clientele.

An agent must be adaptable to their surroundings. People want to be able to trust the agent they choose. Agents who can maintain a mixture of complete professionalism and a down to earth personality will do well when working with clients from all walks of life. Unless an agent specializes and chooses to cater to only a select group of individuals, their client base can include individuals from professional athletes to pig farmers.

For agents who like the thrill of meeting new people, a diverse clientele allows them to experience a wide range of personalities. They aren’t confined to the normal 9 to 5 grind and can work in an environment that is constantly changing and providing new opportunities. An agent life doesn’t have to be boring. It can be as exciting as they want it to be.

Purchasing Insurance in Los Angeles

Have you tried to purchase insurance in Los Angeles? Maybe you are new to LA and are wondering how much it will be, what type of insurance you will need and so forth. If so, you might suffer from rate shock (which is comparable to whiplash but often causes gray hair rather than a sore neck)!

Auto Insurance

Los Angeles is widely known as having some of the highest rates for auto insurance, and California in general has become known for high insurance premiums across the board, be it health, home or auto. However, that’s not necessarily the case.

Recently carinsurance.com did a study that showed the spots in the United States where it actually does cost the most to insure a vehicle, and California didn’t even make the top ten. The ten top spots were all in Michigan and New York state. So, do not believe everything you hear. If you have a good driving record and shop around, you can find affordable auto insurance in LA.

It also depends upon the type of car you drive and your zip code. In West Los Angeles you have the Santa Monica Freeway, so you know you need the best insurance possible! Or you’ll know as soon as you’ve driven it even once.

Health Insurance

No one wants to be without health insurance, but unfortunately, today, it’s almost of a fact of life. Many employers don’t provide insurance, or if they do, it’s often too costly for individuals. And in this job market, scores of people are either self-employed, under employed or unemployed–and without health insurance because of this fact.

The world is a scary place and its difficult to be without health insurance. Did you know that more people choose to buy pet insurance than health insurance for themselves? Many people think of their pets as children…but don’t forget that someone has to take care of those pups, and you need to stay healthy to do so.

Buying health insurance does not have to break the bank.

Health insurance premiums in California may be going down, due to Obamacare, says one study…but conflicting articles note that individual health care plans, purchased privately, may go up.

If you’ve done any reading, or watched any television, you know that Obamacare will soon be law, and you’ll need to purchase your own health insurance if you aren’t already covered by your parents or an employer.

Earthquake Insurance

Do you have earthquake insurance? Only 17% of Californians do. If you own a home, it may be time to think about. With climate change and premium discounts, it might be the smartest move you can make.

Again, shop around for the best coverage no matter what type of insurance you need, find a plan that gets you what you need at a price you can afford.

No matter what type of insurance you are looking for, or what your zip code, consulting an agent is your best bet for finding good deals on exactly what you need, and want. Don’t wait too long–get insured now, before you really need it.

A Crash Course in Airport Driving

Driving at LAX was never fun; it was crowded, congested, frustrating and obnoxious. People pulled away from the passenger drop-off curbs without waiting, without signaling and without looking even once for oncoming traffic. It was a maddening experience every time I had to go and unfortunately I had to go often; it was part of my job. I owned my own limousine company and that meant frequent trips to the airport. I had managed to score a number of high–profile clients that I shuttled back and forth as often as four days a week, sometimes even twice a day depending on how many jobs I had booked. So really, when it came to driving LAX, I was a pro.

That’s why I was shocked when the guy in the faded green sedan pulled away from the curb and plowed directly into my shiny, black limo. Fortunately I’d just dropped off my Beverly Hills client so it didn’t put my reputation at risk but trying to find a spot to pull over in the crazy traffic was a serious pain. When we finally managed to find a place I got out to check the damage. I looked down at my car before even glancing at his. There was a large dent on the panel above my front tire and a long streak of scratched and ruined paint to go with it. Though it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, it was still going to put my limo out of commission for at least a day. In my line of work, that meant I could be out a whole lot of money.

Of course by the look of the other guy’s car, he was going to be out a lot more. The front bumper, which he’d somehow caught on my wheel well, had almost completely ripped off. He’d also crunched the whole front left-side of his car and flattened his tire. He stood there staring at what was left of his sedan. I felt kind of bad for him, he was short, balding and by the run-down look of the rest of his car, didn’t have much money. It seemed that perhaps this little collision was going to hurt him more than it was going to hurt me. Suddenly the anger I’d been feeling began to fade.

“Where are you trying to go?” I asked as he continued to stare in silence at his totaled car.

“Santa Monica,” he replied without turning to me.

“I think you’re going to need a tow,” I stated.

He just nodded. After a moment he turned to check my limo.

“Sorry about this,” he finally said. “I just dropped off my kid. She’s going to college on the East Coast. Guess I was distracted.”

I shrugged. “I’ve got good insurance. You?”

“Yeah.”

We stared at his car for another moment.

“Want a ride home?” I finally asked. “Can’t beat a free ride in a limo.”

Seeing the look of guilt on his face, I shook my head before he could respond.

“It’s all good,” I told him. “Like I said, I’ve got good insurance.”

Though I couldn’t have predicted it, my trip to the airport that day did something more than just dent my car; it introduced me to a fellow passenger in life.