Insurance Marketing HQ

Shark Attack is a Bloody Reminder to Review Insurance when Travelling Abroad

Posted on Aug 9, 2010

Previously, we discussed, Alligator wrangling on the rise in Florida: Over-development and drunk idiots to blame, discussing how there is approximately one alligator for every 12.5 humans and the insurance-related challenges this co-existence can create.

Moving further offshore, in honor of last week’s Discovery Channel, “Shark Week”, we’re exploring a health insurance related issue brought to life by one predator of the sea and its appetite for human arms. The high-profile ordeal of a vacationing Florida man recently brought a media feeding frenzy to the topic of sharks, traveling abroad and insurance.

Luis Hernandez was swimming off a boat in the Bahamas when he was attacked by a shark that shredded his arm to pieces. Blessed to be saved by his wife who pulled him safely onto the boat, the man literally had to sit and wait, bleeding in a large transport plane while his credit card was run for $7,500, covering the cost of the medical evacuation. Also using his credit card, the shark-bitten man was able to pay an additional $13,000 for Bahamian medical care and transportation to a specialized U.S. hospital, but all told, Luis was on the hook for close to $700,000 in medical costs for surgery and recovery.

Facing financial ruin and reduced mobility with his arm, Luis followed all the protocols of his insurance company, which were extensive, and was able to recuperate his medical expenses while gaining 70% of his arm strength. Despite the somewhat happy ending, this whole scenario raises many questions about health insurance coverage when travelling out of the country. The fact is, not all health insurance plans operate the same when you leave the country.

Fortunately, the government has taken steps to provide information for those travelling abroad by creating the Travel.State.gov website. On its homepage the site states the following:

Before going abroad, learn what medical services your health insurance will cover overseas. If your health insurance policy provides coverage outside the United States, REMEMBER to carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of such insurance and a claim form. Although many health insurance companies will pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs abroad, very few will pay for your medical evacuation back to the United States. Medical evacuation can easily cost $10,000 and up, depending on your location and medical condition.

Underscoring a message for retired or senior citizen travelers, the site makes it clear in ALL CAPS and bold that: THE SOCIAL SECURITY MEDICARE PROGRAM DOES NOT PROVIDE COVERAGE FOR HOSPITAL OR MEDICAL COSTS OUTSIDE THE U.S.A. Supplemental life insurance is available as a backup.

Additionally, Travel.State.gov offers additional resources for travelers going abroad including:

Air Ambulance/Med-Evac Companies

Doctors/Hospitals abroad

Avian Flu Fact Sheet

Foot and Mouth Disease Fact Sheet

Chemical/Biological Agents Fact Sheet

Responding to Radiological and Nuclear Incidents

Next time you or a customer plans an adventure vacation that involves diving with sharks, going on safari or a jungle expedition, it’s a good idea to review what IS and IS NOT covered by insurance,  just in case your arm ends up as a meal.

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Errors and Omissions (E&O) Rules Still being Written for Social Media

Posted on Jul 15, 2010

The topic of Errors and Omissions insurance as it relates to insurance agencies and specifically social media and technology, has been a hot one over the past few weeks.

Insurance Journal featured a comprehensive look at all risks associated with social media usage in, “The Growing Risks of Social Media,” while industry thought-leader Steve Anderson mentions E&O policies when discussing coverages needed to protect against the risk of data breaches, where personal information is stolen or made available accidentally.

To get a clear understanding of how Errors and Omissions policies are relevant to technology and social media, it’s important to first define E&O. According to BusinessDictionary.com, Errors and Omissions liability insurance is defined as:

Insurance coverage that protects professionals (such as accountants, architects, brokers, consultant, engineers, lawyers) against claims arising from their actual or perceived negligence, errors, and mistakes in the performance of service for others.

A slightly different explanation is offered on the International Risk Management Institute, Inc. (IRMC) website which defines E&O as:

An insurance form that protects the insured against liability for committing an error or omission in performance of professional duties. Generally, such policies are designed to cover financial losses rather than liability for bodily injury and property damage.

Understanding the types of coverages needed to mitigate the risk from your agency’s social media usage is not only good for your own protection, but valuable in determining how to protect business partners that are active on the social web, potentially opening up new streams for “rounding off” accounts.

Insurers have been slow to create policies that address social media usage specifically (they’re still learning how to use it). For this reason, knowledge from someone who has years of insurance and social media experience is more readily available than anything you can dig up from an insurance company. While they are few and far between, Leslie White, risk manager for SocialFish.org, wrote a groundbreaking post titled, Social Media, Liability and Insurance, in which she discusses the liabilities involved for any small business engaging on the social web.

I encourage you to read the entire piece, but in discussing Errors & Omissions coverage specifically, Ms. White states:

“Associations with extensive media activities should consider a media liability policy. However, if your association has an Errors & Omissions policy for its professional programs, the E&O policy can be modified to extend coverage for media exposures.

One advantage of a media liability policy is it can provide coverage for losses arising from the content of the publication. If the blog posting or article explains how to do or make something and someone gets hurt or suffers a financial loss, the association may be held liable. The policy can also be endorsed to cover claims arising from bodily injury or property damage arising from the content or subject matter.”

There is some gray area in defining the words “media” and “matter” so Ms. White encourages companies to make the definition as broad as possible to cover all web properties, electronic publications and even volunteers and authors.

As mentioned previously, data breaches are a concern, especially when sensitive information is available. Fortunately, most agencies will not have to worry about their websites, since the quote forms or other lead engines present only ask for very basic information. However, LOSS of data is a huge concern as operations become more digitized and CMS systems expand.

Aside from protecting data, bloggers and social media users always have to be aware of things like plagiarism, copyright infringement and defamation, which can all be easily avoided with some basic common sense training and a social media policy. Don’t badmouth the competition. Don’t steal other people’s work. Give credit where credit is due. Don’t post sensitive information about clients.

Benchmark-setting court cases and legislation is needed before a precedent can be set. Until then, it’s best to listen to the experts, formulate E&O coverages that protect your agency’s specific liabilities and apply a similar model when assessing the risks of clients active with social media and digital insurance marketing.

Since the insurance industry is playing catch-up in the social media marketing space, it may be some time before a forward-thinking insurer develops a specific coverage to address the risks faced by bloggers and social media practitioners.  But when it happens, it’s likely they’ll get plenty of attention from the people it matters to most.

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